As Counselling Service Team Lead at St Barnabas Hospice in Lincoln, Tracy Tuffs supports patients and families at one of the most difficult times of their lives. A few years ago she turned to the hospice for support herself when her dad died. Here she tells ehospice about the highlights and challenges of her role.
After qualifying as a counsellor I wanted to use those skills as well as the admin skills I had from previous jobs to their maximum. Not having a lot of knowledge about what a hospice did I saw the role at St Barnabas Hospice as a challenge and an opportunity to do something that made a difference.
I currently support 35 volunteer counsellors and 12 supportive listeners, without whom we would be unable to provide this counselling service to people in the community.
I am very proud of the service that I lead, and of where it is now. We have seen some significant changes over the last couple of years but these were needed to ensure a more professional structured service.
We now have solid foundations, and following on from the work we have been doing with the University of Lincoln (bereavement counselling for students), we are now developing our services to provide bereavement support to children and young people who are affected by terminal illness and bereavement. I am very lucky to have such variety in my role – every day is a different day and that makes it very exciting and keeps it fresh.
My world was rocked in 2016 when my dad was diagnosed with cancer aged 65. It was such a shock as he still had so much he wanted to achieve in his life. When I initially suggested him coming to the hospice, he was scared that it would mean admitting that there was no future.
However, he did use the hospice services for two years and said it was the best decision he made. It enabled us all to prepare and live life to the fullest for the time he had left. We made some lovely memories which will stay with me always. The support I received from my colleagues at St Barnabas was amazing as they look after people in my situation all the time.
The cancer diagnosis of my dad was the most challenging part of my role so far. I found it difficult to see other patients and their families when I was also grieving, and even now there are certain cases that I am aware may be challenging. Having support from my colleagues and manager meant I could overcome those personal challenges.
The other challenge I face is that I want to support everyone, especially those who are unable to access support from other organisations. Working as the only paid member of staff within the counselling service for the whole of Lincolnshire can be challenging, as is leading a volunteer led service within such a large county.
I love everything about my job and feel very humbled and privileged to be able to talk to people and share their stories to help them find some peace. Working for St Barnabas is more than a job – it’s a vocation and a passion, and everyone is so welcoming and friendly. I have some very good friends and have been fortunate enough to have been encouraged to grow and develop as a person and within my career.
For more information visit St Barnabas Hospice