Hospice Care Week 2020: A day in the life - Liz Maitland, Chaplain at Sue Ryder Manorlands Hospice

Meet Liz Maitland, Chaplain at Sue Ryder Manorlands Hospice. Liz has worked at the hospice for 11 years and provides spiritual support to patients, families, carers and staff. Here, she talks us through a day in her life.

Liz Maitland, Chaplain at Sue Ryder Manorlands Hospice

During Hospice Care Week, we are joining forces with Hospice UK to show you what it takes to provide the expert palliative care that our patients and their families need and deserve at the end of life.

Throughout this week, we'll be sharing stories to celebrate our amazing staff and volunteers who work hard every day to be there when it matters and support people through the most difficult times of their lives.

Beginnings

I started my career as a minister at a local village church, so I was used to working with people of all ages, looking at their spiritual care, their lives and what gave them meaning. I applied for the role at Manorlands as I thought there would be a lot of meaning in working with people as they’re coming towards the end of their life.

On a normal day, I usually get up at 7.00am. I’ve got quite a big family and we’re all quite grumpy in the morning so we all just stagger about trying to get in the bathroom first and get out of the house! I have to have a couple of cups of tea before I can feel even vaguely human and then I take the dog for a walk.

“I always like to stop and check in with people to see how they’re doing”

When I arrive at the hospice, I get a coffee and make my way to my office. It sometimes takes me a while to get there as I always like to stop and check in with people to see how they’re doing.

I then get my scrubs on and it’s off to the first meeting of the day, which is usually a handover from the Inpatient Unit. Then, I head onto the ward to see the patients and staff. No two days are ever the same for me, but I get bored if things are the same so I’m fine with that.

Sue Ryder Manorlands Hospice from the front entrance
Sue Ryder Manorlands Hospice

As chaplain, I coordinate and look after people’s spiritual care. When the modern hospice movement was started by Cicely Saunders back in the 1960’s, her vision was always that people would have holistic care, including physical, psychological and spiritual. Spirituality is important in hospice care because it’s part of what makes us who we are.

“Not everyone will go to church or have a particular religious leaning, but they have something that gives them meaning in life, gives them shape, gives them hope”

Often, people think of chaplaincy as exclusively religious, that we’re only here to bring prayers or to give communion, but actually it’s much broader than that. Not everyone will go to church or have a particular religious leaning, but they have something that gives them meaning in life, gives them shape, gives them hope or gives them a direction.

At a hospice, when you have been hit with a lot of problems and challenges as a patient, a lot of those things are quite shaken. So I think the role of the hospice chaplain is to come alongside people, to listen, to hear their stories and to support them to find meaning on that journey.

“During the coronavirus pandemic staff support has become a much bigger part of my role”

During the coronavirus pandemic staff support has become a much bigger part of my role. It’s been such a challenging time to be working in healthcare and my office has been a pretty steady stream of people just needing to offload.

What really keeps me going, and keeps me wanting to come to work in the morning, is the work with the patients. You feel so privileged to come alongside someone and for them to talk to you about their lives. It’s a really precious time. You feel you’ve helped somebody when you’ve been able to listen and perhaps given them some encouragement or some hope.

“I think in the world we have a lot of division, but when time is a bit more short people often stop worrying so much about differences and things that divide us and think about all the things that bring us together”

I’ve met people from a different faith to me who have asked me to sit and pray with them and that’s been very moving. I think in the world we have a lot of division, but when time is a bit more short people often stop worrying so much about differences and things that divide us and think about all the things that bring us together.

A doctor who worked at the hospice during the height of the coronavirus pandemic made a lovely comment that I was the ‘glue that held everyone together’. When I thought about it, I realised that when glue is doing a good job you don’t see it and that’s what chaplaincy should be like when it’s working well.

“A doctor who worked at the hospice during the height of the coronavirus pandemic made a lovely comment that I was the ‘glue that held everyone together’”

Sometimes I feel empty-handed as other staff have so many amazing skills to offer, but they say that they feel better when I am there. Sometimes it’s not what we bring to the table, it’s who we are and just trying to do our best with what we’ve got.

Outside of work, I am currently learning to play the cornet and I have joined a learners’ brass band which is fun and a bit of a laugh. I also like to read and have a book club with my friends.

Find out further information on Sue Ryder Manorlands Hospice, the expert palliative care and support they provide, plus ways you can help them to continue to be there when it matters.

Liz Maitland - Chaplain at Sue Ryder Manorlands Hospice

Chaplain at Sue Ryder Manorlands Hospice

Liz Maitland

Liz Maitland is the Chaplain at Sue Ryder Manorlands Hospice. She has worked at the hospice for 11 years and provides spiritual support to patients, families, carers and staff.