“Sometimes the work hits you but working here gives me perspective”

News and Blog

Donna is a Senior Staff Nurse working on our wards. Here, she shares more about her role. 

“I’ve worked at St Catherine’s since September 2021

I’ve never worked in a hospice before but that was the end game for me as I wanted to do more holistic care. I have a background in A & E and it was working there which made me want to get into hospice care. Lots of people die in A & E and I saw the acute side of end-of-life care there. 

Often people would arrive at hospital when they didn’t want or need to be there but working collaboratively with partners here and making sure people under our care have completed ReSPECT (Recommended Summary Plan for Emergency Care and Treatment) forms helps with unnecessary hospital admissions. If someone has a form saying they don’t want to die in hospital, paramedics can decide not to take them to hospital and to keep them at home instead. That can make a big difference to someone and their families’ end of life experience.

I worked for 6 months in our community team

To experience that side of our care but now I work on our wards.

It’s a real team approach here. People are always willing to help and explain things to help each other learn.

As well as working on the wards, sometimes I cover the ward as Nurse in Charge

When I’m Nurse in Charge it involves lots of talking to patients which I enjoy. I also check the nursing team are alright and make sure we have everything we need for any discharges and admissions. There’s also a lot of collaborative working with partners like pharmacies too, to follow up on people’s medication.

Compared to where I’ve worked before, we’re able to give people proper holistic care here

We help them with all aspects of their care – physically, mentally, and spiritually. Our teams also get to know people’s families and have time to properly support people which is really nice. It’s not task orientated here, it’s patient orientated.

Everywhere aims to provide that but it’s challenging when you’re not being able to support people as fully due to time in other healthcare settings. 

Nursing can be very taxing, and you feel depleted if you feel you can’t help people at the level you’d like too because you don’t have the time. Every nurse gets into nursing to help people and it’s tough when you feel you’re not doing that.

Sometimes our work does impact me

The other afternoon we had two people die within 15 minutes of each other so that was tough.

There’s also been a patient recently who I’ve got a great rapport with. We have similar personalities, and she always makes me giggle. Once when I was washing her, I asked her to put her hands in the air. Even though she can’t speak much she was laughing and shouting ‘hallelujah’ so that’s become something we continue to giggle over.

She loved being in our garden too but it’s emotional as she’s less well now and struggling emotionally. I sat with her the other day for half an hour while she shared her feelings, including some really difficult ones, and cried.

People and their families learn to trust you when you’re caring for them

Her family know me and will ask about my children and because I know their family background, I’ve been able to have candid conversations with them too.

One of her sons is a pilot and he asked me if he should go on his next flight. He said, “If I go, will I see my Mum again?” Sometimes it can feel you’re being blunt when you have to answer questions like that honestly, but people always appreciate it. It allows them to make informed decisions – some which may impact whether they see their loved one alive again.

We’ve cared for a lot of younger people on the wards recently

Since I’ve been working here, we’ve cared for a lot of people in their 30s, 40s and 50s.

That hits me harder as they’re nearer my own age.

We recently cared for one young patient who had a 5-year-old daughter. I have a 6-year-old son so that felt really hard for me.

I thought I’m going to squeeze the people I love a little harder tonight.

I also sat with another young patient and their relative

The relative was one side of her bed, I was the other. We were talking together and holding one hand each. The patient had a tumour and had been very poorly.

As we sat there the relative said, “They’re going, aren’t they?” and all I could say was “Yeah, they are.” The relative’s response was “I’m glad. They need to rest” and after that the patient let go after holding on for ages.

It’s not uncommon for people to hold on for something or to find peace before they go.

There was another patient whose 50th wedding anniversary was approaching, and they had plans to celebrate it with family. Although they were in the hospice they went home for the party for a day. When they came back, they died within the next few days.

My Grandad died here at the hospice too

He’d been talking candidly with my uncle, one of his sons, about death. He didn’t want my uncle to be with him when he died but my uncle wouldn’t leave. At midnight he did leave though, and my Grandad chose to die at 5am the next morning. It’s not something we can prove but people often choose when to go.

People put their heart and soul into their work here

Even though the job can be challenging, everyone is friendly, approachable and wants to help – not just the people we care for but each other. Everyone is passionate about their work and genuinely wants to be here which creates a nice working atmosphere.

People put their heart and soul into their work. They want to learn and go out of their way to look after people. Every day, my colleagues go the extra mile and above and beyond because they want too. I’ve never woken up and thought I don’t want to go to work today. That’s rare and you don’t get that feeling everywhere.

Working here gives me perspective

I’ve realised that the little things don’t matter so much, how precious family and the people we each have around us are, and how lucky I am.”

If you would like to make a difference to terminally ill people in your community find out more about working at St Catherine’s Hospice