Spiritual care provider Nick Ruiter finds wisdom in his clients' words

Hospice clients are those living with a progressive
Wilfrid Laurier University Leaf  
Canadian Excellence

Omdat ik niet weet of de originele webpagina kort of lang op de website van de Wilfrid Laurier University (WLU) blijft staan, heb ik met toestemming een kopie van de pagina gemaakt en hier op mijn eigen website geplaatst.
De originele webpagina vind je hier.

In onze stamboom vind je Nick Ruiter hier.


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The university of the bedside

Spiritual care provider Nick Ruiter finds wisdom in his clients' words

Public Affairs

  Hospice clients are those living with a progressive, life-threatening illness. Nick Ruiter (left) spends some time outside in a clients garden.
Hospice clients are those living with a progressive, life-threatening illness. Nick Ruiter (left) spends some time outside in a client's garden.


Sep 18/06

Laurier grad Nick Ruiter has been a spiritual care coordinator for ten years now, and some find it hard to believe that he can enjoy his job as much as he does. Ruiter works with the terminally ill and, along with a team of nurses, palliative physicians, volunteers and social workers, provides compassionate, end-of-life care.


Working out of the Dorothy Ley Hospice on the ground of the Trillium Health Centre in Toronto, Ruiter's job as a coordinator is to address the emotional and spiritual needs of his clients and, offer counseling and coordinate spiritual care services through the client's own faith community or serve as primary spiritual care provider.

'Most Canadians understand that all are spiritual but not all are necessarily religious,' says Ruiter. For him, spirituality and dying have to do with the uniqueness of the person, their meanings, their illness and their journey, 'whatever its contours.'  

'In our society, many find it uncomfortable to talk about grief, dying and death, but palliative care is about life, not death,' he says. 'It's about living: in comfort with dignity, meaning and hope. In my position I feel privileged to be allowed entry in peoples' lives during what for them is often a vulnerable, intimate or even difficult time.'

Ruiter graduated from Waterloo Lutheran University in 1969 with a BA in religious studies and a minor in psychology. He describes his years at Laurier as a 'life-affirming adventure.'

'Where else,' he says, 'could you have after-class talks comparing the ideas of Kierkegaard, Abraham's sacrifice of Isaac with contemporary ideas about infanticide, and then shoot hoops in the gym with the same professor?'

After his time at Laurier, Ruiter completed his MA in theology at the University of Windsor.  Then Ruiter found himself in the construction business, where he worked for 20 years as a contractor in Toronto's residential renovation and custom-home building market.

'My company was named Camus construction, after the French existentialist I first read at WLU,' says Ruiter. 'While I was still working construction I heard June Callwood interviewed on the CBC about Casey House - it must have been around 1988 - and I tucked the idea of hospice away because parenting required my time and my wife worked as a court room lawyer.'

When Ruiter's boys Zach and Jacob - now 24 and 22 respectively had grown up, Ruiter took up a trained volunteer position at a Toronto Hospice in 1994.

After a few years of training as a volunteer Ruiter became a spiritual care coordinator, one of the few paid professional staff positions in spiritual care for hospice work in Canada. In addition to his formal theological studies, counseling courses and life experience, Ruiter's ability to listen deeply is what he would place at the top of his qualifications to serve the dying.

'Being aware of my own vulnerability or helplessness in my helping has probably made me a better caregiver,' says Ruiter. 'I don't fix anything. Clients are the experts of their own experience, but in being with them and in the everydayness of caregiving lies something more: sacredness.  It's the clients who really get me out of bed in the morning.'

Ruiter says he's following the visionary footsteps of the late Dr. Dorothy Ley, a true Canadian champion of compassionate end-of-life care. Ley regarded dying as essentially a personal journey, not a medical event, placing emphasis on spirituality as the heart of hospice care, even if it follows the needle of pain ad symptom management.

The hospice Ruiter works with serves approximately 75 clients each month by visiting them in their home and offering their palliative services. He describes each day like he's at the university of the bedside, and the hospice clients are his teachers.  

'Once a man told me: 'Time's no good for you when you're sick,' and he managed a smile,' says Ruiter. 'Such living wisdom is not easy to come by. I feel privileged; complete strangers one moment, then not.'

After a decade of experience, Ruiter continues to learn lessons from his clients and his days are filled with both laughter and tears.  

'Usually the happiest moments are also the hardest,' he says. 'You meet people who leave footprints on your heart.  Exercising self-care is key. The work is exhausting but so rewarding; I would not trade it for anything in the world.'

Mallory O'Brien
Public Affairs



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