“We get to know the person they were before they became a patient” 

News and Blog

This Sunday (12 May) is International Nurses Day. Married couple Tim and Susie are both nurses at our hospice – Tim in our community team and Susie on our ward. We asked them how our new hospice has affected them and what it’s like to both work at St Catherine’s. 

How did you both come to work for the hospice? 

Susie:It was a calling! After COVID we both felt that we needed a change from our NHS nursing roles. I had dealt with a lot of palliative patients at East Surrey Hospital so I was aware of St Catherine’s.” 

Tim: “We had a chat about working at the hospice and that same week, I saw a job advert for the community team and applied. Soon after that, Susie saw the role on the ward. We ended up starting a few weeks apart – but I took the plunge first!” 

What prompted you to work on the ward or in the community? Would you ever switch? 

Tim: “After 20 years working on a ward, I felt switching to community nursing would be a refreshing change and a different challenge for me. It’s taken me by surprise how much I love it. I didn’t even know there were jobs like this out there until I looked.”  

Susie: I like having a team around me on the ward for the camaraderie. We’re like a family and we all support each other. We know what each other’s going through, especially on a hard day. I also like to know where I’m going every day – I don’t like the thought of driving around and trying to find parking!” 

Is it hard to both work as hospice nurses? Do you talk about it at home? 

Susie:We don’t often see each other at work as we work opposite days for childcare. But it helps to know what the other person is going through. If Tim’s had a bad day, I can empathise and support him. It definitely helps having someone at home who understands.” 

Tim: “Talking at home helps us to process what has happened – the bad as well as the good. Susie understands the grief that people are going through, she gets it. Sometimes you wish there was more you could do for people.” 

How are you both finding working at the new hospice? 

Tim: “It’s great – there is much more of a family community feeling now that we are all in one building. We are all one team. I see receptionists that I never saw before because we weren’t based in the hospice. I like that I’m seeing lots of different people and we’re all coming together. It’s a great building to work in.” 

Susie: “It’s an amazing building. It’s a clinical setting but the way it’s been designed doesn’t look or feel anything like a hospital ward. The nurses are a lot more visible on the ward now, so relatives can easily find us and have a chat with us.” 

How has the move improved things for people being cared for on the wards? 

Susie: “The new hospice has state of the art facilities, including built-in gantry hoists in the bedrooms that are tucked away in cupboards so that they aren’t visible. We also have piped oxygen directly into the wards and all the bedrooms are ensuite, which helps maintain a person’s dignity. 

There are more spaces for families to sit and relax too. When the summer comes it will be beautiful with every room having their own garden to enjoy.” 

How does the new hospice impact the community team visiting people at home? 

Tim: “The staff in the community and on the ward are all one team. If people in the community would like to come into the hospice, then we can refer them when we recognise a person’s condition is deteriorating. You want people to relax if they come in, so to come here and have this lovely environment helps them to feel more comfortable, and that makes a massive difference.” 

What is the most challenging thing about being a St Catherine’s nurse? 

Tim: “The raw emotion. I can deal with a medical emergency, but here you also have to cope with all the emotion that people experience when they, or their loved one, is dying or has been given a terminal diagnosis. Sometimes you are helping one person grieve whilst another family member is feeling a completely different emotion – they could be angry, sad or scared. Some family members take longer to accept what’s happening and will be in a different phase of their grief. I never know what I’m going to face, every home visit is different.” 

Susie: “We can have very sad days and caring for younger people on the ward can be hard. We had a period at the end of last year when a large number of people staying on the ward were under 60 years old. But we also see couples coming in who have been married for 70 years, and all of a sudden they are going to be on their own. Sometimes I just want to take them home with me!” 

What’s the best thing about your job? 

Tim: “I love my job! I think this is the best job in the world and I mean that wholeheartedly. I love coming to work. I know I’m making a difference for people. That sounds corny, but it is genuinely true. I make a difference, but it’s not just me, it’s the whole team, it’s so worthwhile.  

In this job we can make time for people. If they need me for 20 minutes, I give them 20 minutes. But if they need longer, I can give them more time. Ultimately, I chose to become a nurse to help people and I feel I am doing that.” 

Susie: I agree, it’s having time to be with people compared to working in a hospital. Here we get to know the person they were before they became a patient, rather than just seeing a snapshot of how they are now. We meet so many characters from all walks of life and they often have interesting stories to tell.  

I also absolutely love the team. We’re very supportive of each other. And it’s knowing we’ve helped someone in their final days. We get so many thank yous from families and I think that just says it all.”