The working life of a family support worker

Categories: Community Engagement.

 I chose this role, or rather it chose me, when I came here on a placement whilst doing my Counselling Diploma.  I enjoyed it so much that I stayed on as a volunteer counsellor for five years after I graduated.  I was successful in gaining my post eight years ago when the previous counsellor retired.

There are many aspects of my role that I enjoy but the main one is the degree of satisfaction and humility I feel when a patient, or a member of a family, tells me how I have helped them. Just listening and empathising with them means so much to them.  It is a wonderful feeling to know that they trust me enough to be able to share their feelings and thoughts with me.

Each day is different but as soon as I arrive at the hospice I always check my emails and phone messages. I reply to the most urgent and make a note to answer the others later on in the day. I call in at the inpatient unit and ask our nursing team how our patients are and if there have been any changes over the weekend before I visit the rooms and have a chat with the patients.

I first see those who are not sleeping well or are maybe too ill to talk.  I make tea for patients and sit and chat with them.  If they want to read books I make a note to look in our small collection – we have a collection that people donate so there may be something of interest to them. 

I visit the patients at the St. Francis House inpatient unit and make mental notes of who needs a visit each day.  Sadly if one of them passes away this always has an impact on me, even though it is expected. It is something I have had to learn to cope with so I can be strong for their families but it does not get any easier.

While making tea for visitors sometimes I am called to see patients if they are upset. I take the teas in and make my apologies to the visitors for leaving. If they are very distressed I sit with them for an hour to talk about how they feel.

After they have settled I speak to the nursing staff and make notes in their files. I then go back to my office and deal with paperwork, including work for patients’ relatives. Sometimes I call government departments on their behalf.

I also call the relatives whose loved ones have recently passed away and ask if they would like to come in for a chat.

I usually pack up and head off home at 6.45pm feeling tired, but with a sense of achievement that I have hopefully helped somebody through a very difficult time.

My future aims are to build on the Support Service we already provide at the hospice.   I am working with volunteer holistic therapists and befrienders to provide more interaction and communication for both patients and family members.  I also will continue learning new techniques and therapies that will help all those I support.  I recently completed a course on Mindfulness and I have used this a number of times with clients.  My aim is to continue to learn in order to offer a wide range of coping strategies that people can use to help them cope with their personal situation.

For more information visit St Joseph’s Hospice