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Melissa’s story

As part of national Hospice Care Week, St Catherine’s Hospice wants to share how the support of readers like you allows nurses like Melissa Jefferies to be there to care for terminally ill local people and their family and friends when life comes full circle.

“I’ve worked at St Catherine’s Hospice for a year and half. Before working here I worked on an acute hospital ward in London and initially I was nervous that I’d find working at the hospice too sad and overwhelming, but it’s actually an incredibly positive place.

Six years ago, my Nanny was cared for by St Catherine’s so I knew the amazing care the hospice provided. Now I’m a nurse on the hospice Inpatient Unit giving people the same support my Nanny and family received.

I’d no idea I’d end up working at St Catherine’s but I love my job
Getting to know a person, learning what’s important to them, and caring for them at the scariest, most vulnerable time of their life is an honour. Whether it’s finding someone the right medication, administering an injection, or flushing a chemo line, we use our nursing expertise to help manage people’s pain and complex symptoms. At other times, we simply hold someone’s hand, bring them a cup of tea, or help them feel safe at a time of uncertainty. That’s as important as the physical care we give.

Having the opportunity to make a difference is really rewarding
At St Catherine’s we have a beautiful, tranquil garden that people love to spend time in. Often people are admitted from hospital, and being able to move their bed outside, even for a few minutes, can make people happy. I also love having time to give patients the individual care they like, whether that’s a Jacuzzi bath, washing their hair, or just spending time with them and their families.

Sometimes the smallest things make the biggest difference. One evening, at the end of my shift, I moved a spare bed into the room of a young man so his wife could sleep alongside him. The next morning I found out he’d died, but his wife was able to be right there next to him.

Another lady had a really precise beauty routine. She’d used the same routine and creams for many years and when she was admitted to St Catherine’s she taught me how she liked to do it so that I’d be able to do it for her when she was feeling less well. Having the chance to learn how she liked to care for herself allowed me to give her that exact same care when she needed it most.

We open our arms to people
We let them know we’re there if they need us. Sometimes people aren’t ready. They don’t want to talk to us or take up our support because they’re finding things too difficult and that’s okay, just knowing that we’re there can help them feel safer and not alone.

Caring for dying people doesn’t ever get easier
You can’t help but relate to people’s loss, but it’s this compassion that allows me and my colleagues to provide the kind of expert end of life care we do; the kind of care that everyone deserves.”

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