‘Coronavirus has reinforced why I want to specialise in end of life care’

Categories: Care, Community Engagement, and Featured.

Dr Anna Gray: How working from home through the pandemic has changed my role at Saint Francis Hospice

After I qualified in medicine, I decided to train to become a consultant who specialises in palliative and end of life care.

Pre-pandemic, I was caring for two types of patients living with life-limiting illnesses on the hospice’s ward. One kind was the 40 per cent or so who are well enough to go home again — once we have their symptoms under control.

The other admissions were patients who wish to spend their final moments at Saint Francis Hospice.

With the outbreak of Covid-19, for health reasons, I was placed in the vulnerable category, which has significantly changed my role.

Namely, I have to work from home. With most people we care for being out in the community, we found an opportunity for me to work with our Specialist Community and Crisis Support team.

They are a group of specialist nurses and doctors, providing palliative and end of life care to patients and support to their families in our catchment area.

I’ve been strengthening our relationships with nursing and care homes — undertaking telephone assessments for residents requiring palliative and end of life care. The homes’ staff are doing their utmost, while under incredible pressure, and I’m glad to be part of a team who can support them.

It’s not ideal to have such delicate discussions on the phone, rather than in person, but we’ve had to balance this with the risk of spreading the virus.

The disadvantages are that I’m not in a position to provide care that is as personal or sensitive as I’m used to, when face-to-face with patients.

Eye contact is missing, and so is the ability to take cues from patients.

The coronavirus has reinforced why the holistic nature of palliative and end of life care prompted me to specialise in this area. I get to know about the whole person — beyond their illness. I also learn about what’s important to them during treatment — and that doesn’t necessarily have to be medical. It could be which songs they want to soothe them when they are poorly, or an heirloom they want to pass down. It’s a privilege to be there for people at that stage of their lives.

To find out more about how you can make a difference, please visit our Urgent Appeal www.sfh.org.uk/nurse.