07 September, 2021

During National Volunteer Week we held our annual Long Service Awards to recognise those who have given us their time, energy and skills for five years or longer. We handed out awards to more than 150 volunteers and staff members who have supported us for 5, 10, 15, 20, 25 and an incredible 30 years.

When Paula Garner began working for Harbour Hospice she was one of just two nurses. The Warkworth office where she was based didn’t even have a receptionist, and gaps in the service were filled by volunteers. She’d taken the role because she wanted to return to the community she’d grown up in. “And then I grew with the service as it grew,” she says.

paula garner 25 years blog

Back then the three communities we serve – Warkworth/ Wellsford, Hibiscus Coast and North Shore – were separate entities before they merged in 2018. In that time Paula has seen more change than most and has also gone through her own metamorphosis – working her way up from her original nursing role to team coordinator, clinical educator to nursing team leader of Warkworth/Wellsford to, now, nursing team leader of all three sites.

“Every time I’d think, ‘Okay, I need a change’, something else would happen and they’d hook me in for a while longer,” she laughs. “I’d be like, ‘Okay, yes I’ll try that’. So it really doesn’t feel like 25 years.” Paula has contributed significantly to growing the Harbour Hospice team to the multi-disciplinary army of more than 200 that it is today, and she’s seen our patient numbers grow exponentially.

Perhaps the biggest change she’s witnessed, though, has been in the type of care that patients need. “Today patients live longer, and with more complex symptoms. As modern medicine treats more conditions, by the time people are at the end of life they’ve got a few disease processes happening, which can greatly affect quality of life. Also, patients are receiving more palliative treatments so have more expectations and hope, which can make it difficult to prepare them for end of life”

Despite these challenges, or perhaps because of them, Paula’s passion for palliative care has only intensified. 

"I’ve always felt humbled by the work we do, and I’m constantly reminded that we need to live our lives and take opportunities when they come. Every day I stop and count my blessings.”