Inspired to trek to Petra after 30 years as a hospice nurse

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Fiona Anderson has been a nurse at St Catherine’s for over 30 years. She tells us why it’s not just a job to her and why, with one year to go, she’s been inspired to sign up to our overseas trek to Petra in November 2024: 

When I joined St Catherine’s 30 years ago, I knew nothing about hospice care. I didn’t know if I would like it but decided to go for the job because it’s very patient focussed. That was what drew me in. 

Hospice care goes back to the original principals of nursing – keeping patients at the centre. After experiencing deaths in hospital, I could see the difference the hospice makes. We have time with the person and their loved ones. 

One of the things I loved when working nights on the hospice ward was sitting with people if they didn’t have anyone with them. Being there, so they weren’t on their own, was a privilege. 

After working on the ward for 20 years, I wanted a new challenge and moved to St Catherine’s Community Team where I’m now a Clinical Nurse Specialist. In the community we see people much earlier than on the ward, usually once they have been introduced to palliative care. There is often a lot of change and conversations can be challenging.  

For families in the community, our advice line makes such a difference. We always encourage people to call if they need reassurance, advice and support. Sometimes giving people the time they need can make a huge difference, and this is what we want to give. But knowing that you have other patients, friends, family or healthcare professionals waiting for a callback can make this harder. There are never enough of us. 

There is still a misunderstanding about hospice care in the community. When there is no further treatment, it’s about a change of focus and importance We’re trying to make life before dying as good as it can possibly be. Just because the hospice is involved doesn’t mean there is no hope.  

On the wards we often talked about the ‘magic doors’ of the hospice – as soon as a person came through our doors, they felt much better. But now I’m in the community team, I understand. As soon as families enter the hospice their anxieties related to their situation seem to melt away. It can feel really isolating for people in their homes and I never really appreciated that before. 

People still shy away from talking about death. it’s the one thing that with certainty will affect us all. I understand it’s difficult to talk about for those who have never experienced the loss of someone close to them. Conversations that affect you and your future care should be normal, not scary, and it’s so much better to have them whilst you’re well. 

Dying is a very personal thing, nothing prepares us for losing someone close to us. You learn as you go through it and having the support of St Catherine’s makes such a difference. 

 Trekking to Petra:

When my partner died three years ago, I saw a different side of death. He didn’t use the hospice, but I saw how amazing my colleagues were when I returned to work. It made me truly appreciate how much you need that support.  After feeling so vulnerable, I thought the Petra Trek was a way for me to give something back to the hospice that was out of my comfort zone and personal challenge. I had to look up where Petra was on a map! 

The trek is going to be five days of walking over hilly and rocky terrain, and I don’t cope well with heat, so that will be a challenge, However I’m looking forward to sleeping in a tent. I go for walks most weeks with a friend and I’ve recently been introduced to podcasts which are amazing! I can listen to a podcast and walk for a couple hours and I’m hoping to do Box Hill soon.  

There are five of us from the community team taking part in the Petra trek. Having met the other participants on the trek, I’m full of admiration for them. They are from all walks of life and all ages and they’re taking part in memory of loved ones the hospice has cared for. Everyone will have their own challenges, but I’m hoping five days of trekking will really bond us together. 

Initially the fundraising target was daunting, but we’ve done some car boot sales to raise funds and we’re organising an 80s themed party night. 

I’m very excited about it. My family know it’s a challenge for me, but they know how much the hospice means to me. I’m 58 now, and my plan is to work at St Catherine’s until I’m 68 and then retire, when I’ll have worked here 40 years. It’s definitely not just a job for me.   

If you would like to find out more about the Petra Trek or sign up to join the overseas trip from 16-23 November 2024 visit or call our fundraising team on 01293 447361. 

Fiona has worked at the hospice for over 30 years