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Being a hospice Trustee in lockdown

Catherine Blackburn sits on our Board of Trustees. Here she shares her reflections of being a Trustee of the hospice throughout the coronavirus pandemic. 

“The coronavirus crisis has dramatically affected how, as Trustees of St Catherine’s, we have undertaken our duties. At the start of lockdown, we had to quickly re-assess how we could adapt our work to support the Senior Management Team in the right way whilst ensuring we were meeting our duties as a Trustee Board. Like everyone, we have experienced a dynamic situation where we’ve had to constantly review and change how we work as the pandemic has evolved.

So, I thought I’d share with you, my personal reflections as a Trustee during this time. My fellow trustees will hopefully agree with most of my thoughts, but I stress they are my own.

I feel proud to be associated with St Catherine’s
I’m incredibly proud of everyone at St Catherine’s for the way the whole organisation has risen to the difficult challenges of the last four months. The wellbeing of our patients and their families and carers, has always been at the forefront of thinking throughout this difficult time, and as a Board of Trustees we’ve never been in doubt about the leadership and management of the hospice during the crisis and are grateful for all the incredible hard work by everyone.

I have missed coming to the hospice
In the world before COVID-19, I was a regular visitor to Malthouse Road for meetings with both Trustees and the Senior Management Team. At the start of lockdown, St Catherine’s suddenly felt a long way away. I live a good distance from Crawley. And our local shop, along with all our charity shops, was closed down quickly. I didn’t truly appreciate how valuable physically visiting St Catherine’s has been. In addition to attending my meetings, a visit to the hospice usually included a call into the Coffee Shop. This provided an opportunity to see and meet colleagues informally, and indeed, to see firsthand some of the support we’re able to give to our patients and their families, providing a strong endorsement of who we are and the importance of the work we do. And, I have missed the cake!

I have really appreciated social media
I’m not the biggest user of social media normally, but St Catherine’s Facebook and Twitter feeds have been a great way to feel connected to the hospice and to keep up to date. The wide variety of content and information about how staff are working has been very insightful as well as reassuring to see some familiar faces. The YouTube clips offered by some staff have been excellent, and I commend their bravery for sharing their thoughts on camera.

I have missed seeing my colleagues
Early on, I was finding it difficult to feel useful. We were unable to maintain our usual programme of Trustee work and could only offer limited support by telephone to our SMT colleagues. We’re now back holding regular, virtual meetings and fulfilling our key duties as a Board. Using Zoom offers a useful way to hold virtual meetings, but I miss the chance to meet face to face for our meetings and to have direct conversations with my Trustee and SMT colleagues.

Virtual events have helped me feel connected
The Big Orange Quiz on a Wednesday evening has been great fun and provided an opportunity to hear from some colleagues and friends. As well as raising money, it’s offered some light-hearted entertainment whilst highlighting large gaps in my general knowledge!

And I wouldn’t want to forget the virtual Memory Meadow organised by Lisa Rainier. It felt as calming, reflective and spiritual as in previous years. It was lovely to see so many colleagues involved in the readings and the music was beautiful. Whilst it was a shame not to be in our wild garden in Priory Park, the event was filmed in sunshine and gardens and achieved absolutely the right ambience. 

I do not underestimate the effort taken to keep those of us who are remote to the hospice engaged and informed through this period. So, thank you to everyone involved.

I have missed our fundraising events
As Trustees, we try to support as many hospice events as we can, either taking part, helping out or just coming along to support them. The spring and summer months usually bring so many great events, big and small, and it’s always a pleasure to be a part of them. Instead of visiting lots of lovely gardens which are part of our open garden scheme I’ve had to work on my own which is looking better, but sadly, still someway behind the beautiful selection of some of our supporters.

The loss of so many fundraising events has obviously had a devastating impact on our ability to raise funds. The work by the Fundraising Team to engage people to create their own events has been a really positive way to keep supporters informed and engaged and it’s humbling to see the continued efforts and kindness of our many fantastic supporters.

My final thought is about the future 
Whilst there are still uncertain times ahead as we continue to learn about this virus, I’m confident that St Catherine’s will emerge stronger; We’ve proved our ability to adapt and change for the good of our patients and their families and carers. As Trustees, we are focusing with the SMT on making the future of St Catherine’s stable and secure. I’m very determined and optimistic that we will succeed.”

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