This is who it takes: The Head of Communications

Categories: Care, Featured, and People & Places.

Hospice Care Week is just a week and a half away, and this year the theme ‘This is what it takes’ is aiming to show what is needed to deliver hospice care to patients and their families up and down the country. There are around 40,000 staff and 125,000 volunteers  helping to deliver this vital care at over 200 hospices nationwide, and with this new series of articles we’re shining the spotlight on the huge variety of roles and individuals this effort takes.

Katie Ronald is Head of Communications at Ayrshire Hospice in Scotland. Here she tells us what her proudest moments working at the hospice have been so far, and about realising that patients leave a valuable legacy when they share their story.

I’ve been working in communications for over 25 years with a focus on health, mainly in the charity and public sectors.  During that time, I’ve been involved  with a number of national and local organisations including Kidney Research UK, Crohn’s and Colitis UK, NHS Ayrshire & Arran, Citizens Advice Scotland and the Ayrshire Hospice.

I’m currently spending a significant amount of my time developing communications that support our sustainability agenda; helping supporters, employed and voluntary staff, and key partners understand the challenges that hospices currently face, keeping them updated on our planned response and encouraging their ongoing support and understanding.

I’m also currently heavily involved with the design of an exciting new hospice website and preparations for an Open Day that we are hosting in September, as part of our 30th anniversary celebrations.  Next up will be our Annual Report, Hospice Care Week and annual Go Purple day!

Working in hospice communications, I cannot fail to be inspired by the patients and families who come forward to share their stories with us.  As communications professionals I feel we all have a strong duty of care to offer support and create conditions that will allow those stories to be shared in a safe and respected way.

We need to have open, frank and ongoing conversations, to make sure patients and families are taking part on a fully informed basis, that the appropriate consents are in place, and that they feel under absolutely no obligation to do so.

Over the years I have come to realise that often when sharing their story, our patients can also be leaving some kind of legacy, so it is vitally important that their contribution is treated with due respect and that we go above and beyond to make sure they are satisfied with the end result.   The courage and determination shown by our patients and families to share their experience, so that others might learn from it, is very inspiring.

The last seven years at the Ayrshire Hospice have been very rewarding. I joined in 2012 to establish and develop a central communications function and to roll out a new hospice brand.  Little did I know then, how inspired I would be!

Working with a team of people that really do live and breathe the hospice’s “Making Today Matter” strapline is a real privilege and definitely brings a significant and meaningful authenticity to the communications campaigns and initiatives we run.   I’m grateful to work within such a unique environment, with such a compassionate, giving and encouraging team of people who want to make a difference.

In terms of my achievements, last year, as chair of the newly-formed Scotland’s Hospices Together communications sub-group, I assisted with the co-ordination of a national press campaign in partnership with The Scottish Sun.  The resulting case-study led press coverage was significant and helped to raise the profile of hospice care in Scotland.  It was also a great opportunity to work with communications colleagues across the country to pull together an effective, inaugural campaign.

I’m proud that we have now built a wealth of communications resource for the hospice. We’ve upskilled teams to assist with the communications effort and recruited numerous volunteers to assist with our mission. We have increased our profile, improved understanding, dispelled some myths and trialled new methods which, in particular, have resulted in a much stronger online presence for the hospice.  There’s still much to be done but I’m encouraged by the strong and loyal support that continues to be shown to the hospice – both internally and externally.

It takes a compassionate, dedicated, resourceful, skilled, mindful and awesome team to deliver hospice care!

Hospice Care Week runs from October 7 – 13