Butterfly Children’s Hospices in China face short term nurse shortage

Categories: Community Engagement.

The input of experienced western trained nurses is incredibly valuable at Butterfly Children’s Hospices. Our volunteer nurses from all over the world have each brought their own abilities and areas of specialised knowledge to share with our permanent nursing team. They have provided education, encouragement and support for our nursing team, and their skills have changed the lives of many of our precious children. Of course, volunteers leave us with some life changing experiences of their own – our nurses have sung on stage for International Children’s Day, travelled across the countryside with children, and found creative solutions to everything from medical problems to sourcing Christmas trees. They have eaten the most delicious food in the world, and some have been brave enough to sample things they never imagined edible. And every single volunteer has lost their heart to our brave, beautiful, joyful children.

Volunteer nurses needed
This summer we have a particular need for volunteer nurses. Due to unforeseen circumstances, we have a short-term but critical shortage of medical staff. We’re currently recruiting and training permanent nurses, but during this process, we are seeking urgent support. We need at least five experienced full time nurses from May until October or November, preferably with a background in paediatrics and with some leadership or management experience. 

It does take a special kind of person to volunteer at our Homes in Changsha and Nanjing. We need nurses who are adaptable, willing to work outside of their comfort zone, self-motivated and optimistic. It’s invaluable to be able to keep calm in crisis situations, and of course, a sense of adventure is a great asset too. We have had many wonderful volunteers who have embraced the challenges and still cherish their experiences working with the children and staff in the Homes. They have come from different backgrounds and different countries, but each with the ability to look beyond the diagnosis and respond to the child.

Our children have life limiting conditions, with the guideline for referral to us being 6 months or less to live. Amazingly, many of them leave this guideline far behind once they receive love and good nursing care in our Homes. They achieve things that no-one could have predicted: John goes to preschool, Olivia is full of smiles, and Katelyn is walking everywhere. Twelve children have become healthy and have been adopted into loving families. But of course, many lives are short and the core of our work is the provision of quality palliative care for those short treasured lives.


Sonny’s story

Sonny was a sweet baby boy whose life was short but treasured. He came to Butterfly Home a few months after having heart surgery. Through he survived the surgery, Sonny’s recovery was complicated. A hip condition was causing him constant pain, and he also had viral hepatitis. He was tiny and frail, and his little body was slowly giving up. We wish things could have been different for him, but Sonny had too many challenges and his strength was exhausted. It’s hard to look at his sweet face and know that he never got to grow up and run and play.

But in a different way, Sonny did have a miracle. He was brought into a warm and loving environment and we watched him relax with the care implemented. His pain was relieved, he was administered oxygen when he needed it, and he was cherished. The morning before Sonny died, he was held constantly by his ayis (nannies) and one of our lovely volunteers. Our staff have learnt about viral transmission, and they knew not to fear his condition. Sonny had been isolated before coming to us, and it had broken his spirit. Now, in his last few days, he was held and stroked, he listened to music and enjoyed warm food in his stomach. He passed peacefully, no longer alone, but a loved little boy. Yes, these moments are full of sorrow, but there is also hope and joy in our Homes. We celebrate every day with the children, showing them love and kindness. 

The best gift we can give is a happy childhood, be it long or short. For the right person, working in this environment is absolutely rewarding. As one of our volunteers commented:

“Volunteering at BCH has given me a new perspective on my work as a paediatrician. Returning to the NHS after working in the homes, I have realised how incredibly lucky I am to live and work in such a resource rich environment. I have learned so much from the beautiful children, from their bravery and their love for each other and the staff. Working with them has changed the way I practice medicine – I have realised that when a child is very sick, kind words and gentle touch are as important as procedures and medication. I am eternally grateful that I have had the opportunity to work at BCH, and cannot wait to do so again in the future.” – Dr Caroline Sprinz, Volunteer Medical Advisor and Trustee.

Please consider whether you are able to help us meet this need – you will be forever changed by the experience and we will be so thankful.

Find out more on our website www.butterflych.org or make an enquiry:

General enquires:
Helen Surgeon (Business Manager) helen@butterflyhospice.org

Nurse Volunteer Vacancies (short and long term)
: Katie Hill (Head Nurse) katie@butterflyhospice.org