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I work as a nurse for the hospice that cared for my Nan

Melissa Jefferies, 25, is a nurse at St Catherine’s Hospice. Along with her colleagues, she is there to make life less difficult for people living with life-limiting illness.

People often ask me why at 25 years old I work in a hospice, but I couldn’t imagine doing anything else. Getting to know a person and what’s important to them, and caring for them at the most vulnerable time of their life is an honour.

Starting my career in a hospital

When I first qualified as a nurse I worked in a hospital, but I could never go back there now.

Hospitals are designed to make people better. So when people are facing the end of their lives, hospitals can’t offer the same care that St Catherine’s can.

At the hospice I have more time to help people who are dying.

Supporting people at the hospice

But even though I love my job here at St Catherine’s Hospice, I’d be lying if I told you there are no hard days.

When someone arrives here, more often than not they’ve come from
a place where they haven’t been getting the support they need. They often feel desperate, frightened and in pain.

More and more patients also have complex care needs. They need us, their families need us, and they need the expert skills and drugs knowledge we have – round the clock.

A huge responsibility

When someone is dying, you only have one chance to get things right for them. It is a huge responsibility, and I always feel sad when someone I’m caring for dies.

The only comfort is knowing you’ve done everything you can for them and their family.

Yet for every challenging moment here there are better moments too.

A lady I was looking after asked if she could go out into the garden in her bed. As I settled her down, with the sound of our garden’s waterfall gently trickling in the background, she put her face up to the sun, closed her eyes and smiled.

Being able to give people moments like that, their own moment in the sun, makes everything worth it. I couldn’t do that for people anywhere else and it’s why I’d never leave the hospice.

My Nanny’s experience

Eight years ago St Catherine’s Hospice cared for my Nanny. Now I’m a nurse in the hospice’s community team giving people the same support my Nanny and family received.

I remember the fear of first being told St Catherine’s was involved in Nan’s care, and it’s a fear I know many other families feel.

My family is very close, so when my nanny received a terminal cancer diagnosis, we all tried to process the news together.

I was 17 and very angry. It wasn’t fair and even though I was well supported, I didn’t believe that my sweet, caring, gentle Nanny was suffering from this cruel illness.

St Catherine’s Hospice

My Nanny told us that St Catherine’s nurses had been in touch to arrange to see her.

I now understand it was a nurse practitioner, who’d received a referral from Nan’s consultant, and wanted to visit Nan at home to introduce her to the hospice and assess her needs.

Nurses tried different medications to make Nan comfortable and offered emotional support, but my Grandad struggled. Every time nurses visited, he’d go out into the garden and not come inside until they’d left.

There for the whole family

St Catherine’s wasn’t only there for my Nan, they were there for my family too .

A week before Nan died, Mum rang the hospice. She was at breaking point and needed answers.

She wanted to know when my Nanny would die, how it would happen, and what she should do.

As a nurse myself, I understand how difficult it is to answer these questions, especially over the phone, but I’m so grateful someone was there to support Mum. She still talks about that call; she doesn’t remember what the nurse said, but she remembers she didn’t feel alone.

Rewarding job

I’d no idea I’d end up working at St Catherine’s but I love my job.

I’m proud to say my team, and the whole hospice, provides outstanding care.

Having the opportunity to make a difference is really rewarding.

At St Catherine’s we have a beautiful, tranquil garden that patients love to spend time in. Often people are admitted from hospital, and being able to move their bed outside, even for a few minutes, can make people happy.

I also love having time to give patients the individual care they like, whether that’s a Jacuzzi bath, washing their hair, or just spending time sitting with them and their families.

Caring for dying people doesn’t get easier

You can’t help but relate to someone’s loss, but it’s this compassion that allows my colleagues and I to provide the kind of end of life care we do; the kind of care my nanny had, and the kind of care that everyone deserves.

Charlotte Harding
Charlotte Harding
Charlotte is a journalist and the co-founder of The Women's Work Collective.


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