The Nightingale Fellowship and St Christopher’s Hospice formed a valuable partnership a few years ago following a very generous grant from the Fellowship to St Christopher’s to help meet hardship needs on the part of nurses.
Since then, we have worked together to improve the personal and professional lives of nurses working across the world involved in palliative care.
The funding made available from Nightingale Nurses has met living and other costs that would otherwise deny nurses the opportunity to achieve their potential in this fields of palliative and end of life care.
The focus of funding related to “hardship” on the part of these nurses is more than simply ensuring they have the monies they need to meet daily living requirements. In addition, it has been about their personal and professional wellbeing – making sure they are connected and feel supported in their work, have access to new skills and a community who will look out for them.
For nurses working in very isolated roles this can be essential to ensuring they can keep going and achieve what is being asked of them. It helps them avoid burnout and encourages them to remain motivated; it relates directly to their self-belief as people and nurses, and ultimately to their impact and contribution as professionals.
Helping nurses in a particular time of need
Meet Christian – an energetic and creative nurse from the Cameroon who is the only nurse in his country delivering palliative care on top of many other demands on his time. He has since received mentorship and coaching, alongside training (funded elsewhere) to focus his efforts, build his resilience, and help him achieve direction. The results in terms of his wellbeing and his impact are astounding and we have now been able to encourage and support him further.
Helping nurses get going
Some of the funding made available has been used by nurses who needed practical help to access new and different opportunities.
Meet Anu – a talented and ambitious nurse from Kerala whose intellect and curiosity makes her a superb candidate for some academic learning in the UK or similar, subject to her being able to write better English to the standard of an English university. A small grant from the Nightingale Trust enabled her to learn written English. She has now passed her exam first time and she has mentorship (provided probono) from an academic at Surrey University and St Christopher’s to guide her career and learning moving forward. Anu is a nurse who will really make a difference in her country and beyond if organisations like St Christopher’s and the Nightingale Fellowship believe in her.
Creating an opportunity for nurses to meet and support each other
With the blessing of the Nightingale Fellowship St Christopher’s began work with an innovative organisation in India to work up plans for a masterclass to which pioneering nurses from around the world could attend.
Those from low- and middle-income countries received support for their accommodation and travel via the grant.
A group of just over 60 individuals came together in Kerala last October for a week to connect and learn. They had all told stories of professional isolation, potential burnout or failure to progress at cost to their personal sense of value and professional impact. We were keen to work with them to redress this situation.
Meet Kerene- a palliative care nurse and educator from Cape Town in South Africa who had seriously considered giving up her profession as a result of the isolation she experienced.
Through the support of the Nightingale Fellowship she had the chance to “find her tribe”. She describes the impact of the masterclass and is forever grateful to St Christopher’s Hospice, the Institute of Palliative Medicine, India and the Nightingale Fellowship for making the masterclass possible which was life-changing for her.
Kerene goes on to be inspirational to others and plans now to pursue a masters in nursing. Our investment to date in her will undoubtedly benefit many more nurses than Kerene.
Helping nurses move on from personal distress
Some of the hardship to which we respond on behalf of the Nightingale Fellowship is a consequence of major national and global trauma, for example the genocide in Rwanda, with lasting consequences for individuals and generations including nurses.
Three nurses came from Rwanda to the masterclasses bringing stories of personal and professional pain as they tried to help individuals cope with life threatening conditions alongside the distress of having already been subject to unbearable suffering through violence and loss. The experiences of bereavement are complicated and sustained for some people including the professionals who try to provide support.
The masterclass provided an opportunity to explore this complicated situation, then to rebuild purpose and sustained ambition in the nurses.
Meet Pauline who, after her return to Rwanda, and the accomplishment of this palliative care fellowship and masterclass, has started training other health care professionals and community health workers in different districts in Rwanda and is thinking about a home-based palliative care project.
Pauline is committed to pushing forward in a tough role and in a tough context because others have invested in her. She is thankful every day for the trust and belief we hold in her. In turn we appreciate the Nightingale Fellowship for the opportunity to come alongside and support people like Pauline.
Helping nurses move beyond personal challenge
The funding has been particularly helpful for individuals whose life and work circumstances could prove overwhelming without some additional support.
Meet Yangden, a pioneering nurse who has led the development of palliative care in Bhutan almost single handed for a number of years.
She is also an experienced nurse of healthcare and midwifery but need to improve her skills to help with families through bereavement. The masterclasses offered a new community in which she could thrive. Most importantly it helped her grow personally as well as professionally, integrating and making sense of her personal experiences as well as her professional ones.
Yangden now seeks an opportunity to come to the UK to do a master’s degree, something St Christopher’s is keen to help support. The relationship we established with her via funding available from the Nightingale Fellowship has been vital to getting these plans underway. It will ensure that Yangden’s significant contribution to the development of better health in Bhutan is sustained for the future.
This is a great tribute to the vision of the Nightingale Fellowship.
Final thoughts from St Christopher’s
The work of St Christopher’s to redress suffering related to death, dying and grief has its roots in the vision and pioneering efforts of Dame Cicely Saunders, a Nightingale nurse.
She was never content simply to change the experience of people dying or bereaved in South East London; instead she chose to change the world and the global movement of hospice care of which St Christopher’s and others is a part, is the consequence of her tenacity, intention and ongoing endeavour.
She struggled at times and drew heavily on the emotional, practical and financial support of others to achieve her dream for a different world and experience of end of life.
We, at St Christopher’s try to continue this work and we do it by working through individuals like Christian, Anu, Kerene, Pauline and Yangden who are pioneers also. Like Dame Cicely, they cannot do it alone and neither can we. We are so grateful to the Fellowship for its support and belief in us, and in turn the nurses we support.
To find out more about our work with pioneering nurses and the development of palliative nursing more generally contact M.Cooper@stchristophers.org.uk or H.Richardson@stchristophers.org.uk