As part of the second year of my nursing degree I undertook a six week placement at St Catherine’s Hospice. It is an opportunity that I will always remember as vital to my learning and development as a nurse.
I had never had any experience with hospice care before and seeing this aspect of nursing was amazing from both an educational and personal perspective. The hospice’s approach made me think about the way in which nurses interact with people at different stages of their lives everyday.
I have always been inspired by the work of clinicians who choose to work in the palliative environment. Their dedication to achieving people’s goals as they approach the end of their life is a gift that few can offer. People’s goals vary. They might want to achieve freedom from pain, marry their fiancé, or simply be able to go home; to the place they feel most comfortable. These types of goals are key to the aims of a hospice. Hospices are all about helping people live as well as they can all the way to the end. Nurses can be a part of that, providing physical comfort or help with movement and pain relief. Or emotional comfort, by sitting with somebody in the middle of the night with a cup of tea. Putting a hand on someone’s shoulder is sometimes more important than anything else you could do.
One of the experiences I remember most from my time at St Catherine’s was showing somebody an easier way of getting out of bed on their own. It was nothing particularly difficult but it helped them be more independent and made their stay in the hospice more comfortable.
The level of care given to local terminally ill people was excellent, and the manner in which nursing staff interacted with patients has stayed with me. The overall atmosphere at the hospice surprised me too. There was an underlying air of comfort and compassion which contrasted with the inevitable sadness. This meant patients felt cared for, safe and listened to. I learnt a lot from my time with St Catherine’s nurses and the sensitivity, tact and skills I saw will inform the rest of my nursing career.
An unavoidable truth of hospice care is that death is always nearby. In many areas of nursing, death is seen as a failure, a mistake. But St Catherine’s helped teach me that this is not the case. In many ways, the most intimate care you can provide for someone is the care which occurs in the hours and minutes leading up to the end. Being a part of that can never be forgotten.
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