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Families whose loved ones have been cared for by St Barnabas House often describe our nurses as ‘angels’. Julie Fudge is one of the hospice’s Clinical Nurse Specialists who works out in the community. Here, she shares some of her thoughts and experiences from nine years working in palliative care.
“It’s a busy role, but I love it”
For the last two years I have worked as a nurse specialist at St Barnabas House. I visit patients out in the community, offering advice and support for managing their symptoms as well as emotional support for patients and their loved ones. An important part of my role is helping to plan patients’ future wishes regarding their care or treatment.
“We care for everyone”
Patients and their families come from all walks of life. From schoolteachers to shop keepers, bank managers to the homeless, we care for anyone aged over 18 who might need our support.
To be part of someone’s life and care for them during such a difficult time is a privilege and it means a lot to be able to support patients so that they can maintain their independence for as long as is possible. Ensuring they have the best quality of life is at the heart of what we do, which means helping them to remain free of pain and discomfort and enabling a peaceful death in their place of choice when the time comes.
“People are often surprised by the services we offer”
A lot of new patients and family members who aren’t familiar with St Barnabas often think of the hospice as somewhere you just go to die. They are not aware of how we can support them in all areas of their life, at all stages of their journey. Our team of Clinical Nurse Specialists work very closely with the Family Services team, Day Hospice, physiotherapists and Hospice at Home team.
“Hospice care is all about going the extra mile during the saddest times”
I remember one time I arrived at a patient’s house to do a review; I had looked after this lady and supported her family from day one. On arrival, her family were by her bedside and she was taking her last breaths. I gave them the space they needed with their loved one and sat nearby in another room. After the patient passed away, the family asked me to put her in a particular dress, which I did. I brushed her hair, lit the candles in the room and dimmed the lights.
The family returned to her bedside and spent precious time with their loved one. As I was leaving, one of them followed me out of the house and thanked me for making the ending so peaceful and for making her look so lovely and calm. They had no idea that dying could be like this.
“Patients and their families have taught me many things over the years”
Don’t put off what you wish to do.
Don’t take anything for granted.
Be happy with what you have.