“Patients tell me the hospice is a unique oasis of calm” 

News and Blog

Claire Treen has been a long-standing supporter of our hospice, fundraising for us and helping at many of our events. Now she works as a Healthcare Assistant on our wards. She shares more about moving from supporter to staff. 

“I was first inspired to support St Catherine’s after a friend’s Mum was cared for at home 

My friend had counselling with the hospice too. I started fundraising and doing events like the Midnight Walk. We always used to dress up and win the best dressed prizes! I’ve been part of the cheer squad for the London Marathon and done Christmas wrapping too.  

I’ve always said I’d really like to work for the hospice 

But it’s never felt like the right time before. In September 2023 I reduced my hours at a local pre-school which I run. When I saw a Healthcare Assistant role come up, I thought “I could do that potentially, and it’s something just for me.” I didn’t tell anyone I was applying but I had mixed reactions when I told people I’d be starting work here. People said I’d be great but some of them asked if I’d find it too emotionally challenging. In some ways I do, but aren’t we all going to die? 

St Catherine’s is unique 

We’re not like a regular hospital, where you don’t see the same medical professionals, nobody has time to chat and sometimes family members can feel they’re a hinderance.

At the hospice people aren’t just a number, they’re a person. They see the same faces, everyone is smiling and we all want to stop and chat. 

The new hospice is like a hotel 

Our new ward corridor with its individually named rooms and styling make it look like a hotel. It’s not like a clinical setting and people’s rooms become their home from home.  

They have photos, and one man recently brought his own duvet. The small touches, like the towel art and lavender bags on the bed, make a difference too. People can have flowers from their visitors in a vase by their bed and their dogs can visit. That’s not possible in other places.  

One man was transferred here from hospital. He’d not slept and had real anxieties while he was there but he described the hospice as ‘complete and utter calm.’ 

If people want something we’ll accommodate it wherever we can 

One Saturday afternoon a colleague and a volunteer were taking round our ‘jolly trolley’ drinks trolley about 2pm. A family were with their relative who was actively dying and one of the ladies asked me if they could all have a drink to cheers him – of course they could! 

She said they thought that was something they’d only get if their relative was at home dying. Not everyone can be at home so we need to provide that home from home feeling when we can.  

I love my role as a Healthcare Assistant 

And I most enjoy being with the patients and relatives. Although you know some people are here because they’re going to die it’s not the first thing you think about. I find out about people’s histories and when I care for them, it’s a privilege. I think here’s a person at their most vulnerable time who needs someone to look after them and they’re going to let me do that.

People at St Catherine’s really care and they’re the sort of people I’d want to look after my own Mum if she needed it.  

I see a change in people once they settle in here 

Their whole demeanour changes. One man really didn’t want to come here but after a couple of hours at the hospice he changed his tune. He came out of his room to ask for a tea and some biscuits and had a shower here. 

When we’re caring for patients, washing, dressing and cleaning them, we use their own products and personal items 

There was one lady who had a face cream by the side of her bed. Putting that cream on is part of her daily routine so we do that for her. Another gentleman asked if we could splash his aftershave on and we used his shampoo when we combed his hair so he still looked and smelt like Dad/Grandad. That’s important for people and their families as they’re still who they are. One daughter told me ‘Dad looks so relaxed, so happy here.’  

Since I’ve been working at the hospice I’ve realised it’s the things that we take for granted and that are insignificant to us when we’re well, like putting on face cream or wearing aftershave, that matter so much here. 

People aren’t just anybody here. They’re somebody and they’re somebody to us. We wrap our care around them and that’s what makes us different. 

Everyone is so grateful and appreciative 

Even in their most horrendous moments – it’s quite incredible. People do assume they’re going to come in and die but that’s not always the case. People also think they’ll be no laughter or happiness and it’ll just be doom and gloom but that’s not true either.  

Everyone has got something positive to say about St Catherine’s 

I’ve been made to feel really, really welcome and everyone who works here has been excited that I’m joining the team. In my volunteering with the hospice people have always been positive but staff all have positive things to say about working here too – that’s a rarity.   

I’m so pleased to be a part of the St Catherine’s team. Even though I’m staff now, I’ll be continuing my volunteering and fundraising – I just get to see it from both sides now.” 

If you would like to find out more about working for St Catherine’s visit our employment page here