Liz is a true community hero – she’s a hospice nurse at Sue Ryder, Thorpe Hall, helping patients and their families not only at difficult times in their lives, but also at times that can be incredibly positive and uplifting…
How long have you been a nurse, and what made you decide you wanted to become a hospice nurse?
I’ve been nursing since 1979, and when I worked in hospitals, I found that I couldn’t really give the time that I wanted to the patients, and that’s what it’s about for me – giving time. You don’t have to worry about stuff like getting someone ready for theatre, you get to spend time with the people you’re caring for and their families – when someone wants to talk to me I sit there and hold their hand.
So it’s almost like the attraction is that it’s a ‘purer’ form of nursing…
That’s right, it’s hands-on and getting to be with the patients.
How long have you worked at Thorpe Hall?
I’ve been there since it opened! That was in1991.
You must have seen a lot of changes in that time
Yes. It’s an incredibly old and beautiful building, but obviously not built to be a modern hospice. At the moment new buildings are going up which are designed to be used for modern hospice care, so it will really fit with our needs – there will be single rooms and also rooms for couples, among other things.
What changes have you seen in the provision of palliative care and also in the perception people have of palliative care?
When we first opened there wasn’t another hospice in Peterborough, and to begin with it was quite difficult to give ourselves a reputation, to get across who we were and what we were doing. It’s about changing the public’s view as I think a hospice was seen as somewhere you go in, and you die and that’s it. People didn’t realise that there’s a high percentage of patients that come in, get their symptoms sorted out then go back out again, even if eventually they may come back to us.
Tell us about the best aspects of the job
We get to be part of some of the most important bits in people’s lives – we have quite a few weddings here at the hospice. It may be that the marriage will be shorter than many, but it’s a happy time, people decide that yes, they do want to marry their partner and that ends up happening while they are here. We recently woke one young chap up while he was dozing, so we could give him a wash, and told him: ‘this is technically your stag do – you’re getting married in two hours!’
What advice would you give a young nurse thinking of going into palliative nursing?
I do think that it’s something you… you feel like you want to do. So I would say: you just know.
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