I am a Deputy Nurse Manager and I have worked in St Gemma’s community nursing team for 19 years. Although our In-Patient Unit and Out-Patient services are based at the Hospice itself, the vast majority of St Gemma’s patients are cared for in the community by myself and the community nursing and medical team. We talk about a ‘Hospice without walls’ – we bring many of the Hospice services to you.
I started as a Community Nurse Specialist at St Gemma’s having worked as a staff nurse on a medical unit, in paediatrics and various other wards and as an in-patient sister in another hospice, which all gave me the rounded skillset I need to work in a palliative care community team. I am a line manager, but I still have a small caseload of patients. My main role is to make sure that our team have the right support; training and expertise that they need to provide the best possible care.
A nurse from our team is often the first person a family meets from St Gemma’s when their loved one becomes ill. So as well as being a healthcare professional, each member of our community team is an ambassador for St Gemma’s. We visit people in all sorts of places and situations – we are not there to judge, we are just there to care. Everyone is a person first and a patient second.
Depending on the extent of their illness, a patient and their family might see their nurse for a few days, several weeks, or many months. We can’t take all the sadness away from a situation but we can use our skills and experience to help. There’s always something you can do even if someone is approaching the end of their life, it’s the ‘living’ that’s important. We may need to do complex symptom management or advise about difficult decision-making and arrange for appropriate support from the Neighbourhood teams to help administer pain relief or acquire equipment to help move or care for a patient – and we do it with warmth and compassion at a time that is right for that individual person. That’s what makes the difference. We really do care.
Our nurses are skilled at ‘tuning in’ to each patient to find out where they are in their illness. It is different working in people’s homes – we try to develop trust on a one to one basis so people can be themselves and let their emotions out more easily. From emotional support to complex symptom management, we will share the journey with them.
One of the best things in my job is meeting such brilliant people and see the amazing things they do to support someone they love or care for. It’s humbling to see just how much people do for their loved ones in really difficult and often distressing situations. Despite the troubled world we live in every day, I am privileged to see things that make me think, ‘As a human race, we’re not so bad!’ It’s a joy to walk into a house where you can sense the love and the warmth. You develop bonds with people. It always gives me such satisfaction to be able to support people in a way that’s right for them at such a critical time.