Caring for people at the end of life can be challenging even for the most experienced nurses. For nurses starting out on their career it can be especially demanding. For many newcomers to the profession, the last 18 months have also seen a far greater exposure than usual to death and dying.
Perhaps unsurprisingly then, interest was high in the new Newly Qualified Nurses Community of Practice, launched by St Christopher’s CARE in October. Fifty nurses, working across hospices, hospitals, the community and in mental health, signed up to be a part of this new community designed to help them master the principles and practice of palliative and end of life care.
This brand new national network which is free for all nurses up to five years after qualification, has been made possible by the generous support of the family of a St Christopher’s patient. Siân Evans, herself a former nurse, was cared for by St Christopher’s until her death in 2020. Grateful for the exceptional care the whole family received, her widow Tyrrell and daughter Isabel wanted to create a legacy for Siân. They set up a fund to support nursing education and training in palliative and end of life care.
Now, in the form of this community of practice, newly qualified nurses have the opportunity to come together each month. These sessions will not just help to develop their skills and knowledge but also build their confidence in communicating about death and dying and increase their resilience through a shared sense of pastoral support.
At the first session, St Christopher’s CARE Senior Educationalist Maaike Vandeweghe outlined how the members of the community will play the lead role in determining the content for the upcoming sessions. She also encouraged nurses to consider the challenging topics they’d like to tackle over the course of the next year. Nurses were also reminded of the hugely important role they play when Tyrell Evans’ story about the care Siân received was read out.
Maaike said: “It’s imperative that if we want each subsequent generation of nurses working in this critical field to provide the best possible care, that they are provided with the skills and support they need.
“We see this as being a flagship for innovative communities of practice. We’ve developed an online learning platform with a mix of interactive teaching techniques including polls, questionnaires and discussion boards which really help to engage the nurses.
“We also feel like we’ve really tapped into an unmet demand. The nurses at the first meeting said they felt they had a lot to learn and that being part of a network was really exciting and would be incredible supportive to their development.”
At the end of the first year, in the autumn of 2022, St Christopher’s CARE will host an in-person event celebrate the achievements of the community and to remember Siân Evans.