Reflections of a newly qualified hospice nurse

Categories: Care and Featured.

 Joanna Smith joined the Inpatient Unit at St Richard’s Hospice in Worcester in September last year, straight after qualifying as a nurse. Here she tells ehospice about her first six months working in palliative care.

 Nursing was always something I had wanted to do from a young age, however I didn’t feel this was a realistic goal for me. I didn’t leave high school or sixth form with the best grades, so I worked in nurseries, an office and as a nanny before my training. But at 26 I finally decided I wanted to have a career in nursing. I had to go back to college to do the access course before I could even think about applying to go to university. It was a long road, but so worth it.

I never really thought that working in palliative care would be for me. I always imagined myself working in A&E, or Minor Injuries. However during the third year of my training at the University of Worcester the opportunity came up to do a 12-week block placement at St Richard’s. It was on a first come, first served basis and when the email came through I replied immediately asking to be put forward for a placement.

With some of my previous placements I felt like I hadn’t had much experience with difficult conversations or caring for palliative patients, and as a third year student I really wanted some experience in this area. I was nervous before starting, but the team were so welcoming and I instantly found my feet.

The 12 weeks flew by and I felt like I had my ‘lightbulb moment,’ I knew that St Richard’s was where I wanted to work. I hope to still be here in 10 years’ time! I’d love to stay, grow and develop my skills.

My absolute favourite thing to do is to take patients out in the garden. We have beautiful grounds here and each room has a patio with a view of the pond. We can get all of our patient beds and chairs outside, and I just love seeing patients and their families all sat together with a cup of tea. I also really love the continuity of care provided at St Richard’s, if possible nursing staff will look after the same patients. This is great to help us get to know our patients and their families.

Coming here straight from university as a newly qualified nurse was a big challenge for me. I think the responsibility hits you and suddenly you don’t have your student uniform to hide behind! But the biggest challenge is knowing that you can’t always fix things for a patient and put their life back to how it was before their diagnosis.

Due to the nature of the job it can become emotionally challenging. Some days are hard and very busy. It can be difficult to switch off when you get home. It’s important that you are able to take time for yourself. I try and get out of the house a lot on my days off. Seeing what some patients and families go through makes you really appreciate the little things in life, even if it is just going for a walk.

As we have an ageing population, the requirement for hospice care will only grow. We are fortunate at St Richard’s, we are currently  undertaking a building project to expand the hospice services enabling us to care for more patients within our local community when they need us most.

For more information visit St Richard’s Hospice

To see job opportunities in hospices across the UK, visit Hospice UK’s jobs board