Chris’s Story

“I’ve worked as a Palliative Care Specialist Nurse for Ashgate Hospicecare for eight years, although it doesn’t seem that long! Nonetheless, I’ve been involved in many changes throughout this time.

My role has changed a lot over the past eight years, from being based at Chesterfield Royal Hospital to becoming a specialist nurse based at the Hospice and working out in the community. No two days are the same, but I will usually see around three patients a day and the amount of time I spend with them will vary depending on their needs.

As a specialist nurse, I aim to provide the expertise and support for people who are facing a life-changing time, assessing patients and helping them to manage their symptoms and then introducing patients and families to the many teams at the Hospice who support our patients.

The first involvement I had with the Hospice was a personal one, following my mum’s diagnosis of cancer in 2009, during a time of great uncertainty and shock. As a daughter, and also as a nurse, her diagnosis was difficult and very daunting for me. At times like this, you can feel very alone, not knowing how to access support and information as your head is in a whirl of emotions. The normal pattern of life becomes unrecognisable and common sense is lost.

Our introduction to a specialist nurse from Ashgate Hospicecare at that time was key to helping us understand what was available, to make informed choices and to provide support for us both. The first home visit opened my eyes to the amazing role that these specialist nurses play out in the community at the hardest time for a family.

She introduced us to a structure of support networks that provided stability and contact numbers when we needed expertise and advice. At such times, you seek black and white answers to problems that are not always straightforward. Our specialist nurse provided explanations and helped us find the answers we needed. She was able to offer some clarity at such an uncertain time.

This poignant moment was what led me into changing my career path. An opportunity arose when this post was advertised and I knew instinctively that I needed to apply. Sometimes in life, things just click into place serendipitously and this is how it felt applying for this job.

Over the years, I have developed in my role. In particular, I am now able to provide holistic assessments – I look at all the patient’s needs, which often go beyond medical needs. I also help patients and their families to plan for the future which means speaking to patients about what kind of care they would like to receive as early as possible and where they would like to be as they become more ill. I then share this important information with the wider healthcare teams in our local areas. It’s so important to work in partnership with other services, such as district nurses and home care providers to make sure our patients’ wishes are respected.

The thing I’m most proud of as a specialist nurse is being able to give families the security of knowing that we are here for them, telling them about all the ways Ashgate Hospicecare will be able to support them through their journey. It also makes me proud to know that I can help control patients’ symptoms so they are in less pain and help them to be where they want to be at the end of their life.

In my role, I often have to dispel the common myths that hospices only provide care at the end of a person’s life. In fact, we are able to provide expertise and support right from diagnosis of a life-limiting illness and, often, the earlier the patient can meet us and know what we’re all about, the more we can offer them, both at the Hospice itself and in referring them to other services. More widely, as a specialist nurse working for Ashgate Hospicecare, I play a key role in planning for the ever-changing needs of our ageing population. The most challenging thing for me is the increasing demand for our services. We need to be offering our services to everybody who needs hospice care in North Derbyshire, but we simply don’t have the capacity to reach everyone at the moment.

We will need to have a really good strategy over the next few years to deal with the increasing need for hospice care in our communities. I always think that you never know when you or your family might need to use the Hospice and we have to be able to provide the best care possible to everyone and make sure our services are accessible to all.

My own experience with my mum remains clear in my mind and guides me into providing a service that is timely, individualised and that really helps those who need it.”

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