“We make sure that if people are near the end of their life that they’re never left alone” Our journeys into palliative care nursing

Denise and Lynne work as Nursing Assistants at Sue Ryder Duchess of Kent Hospice in Reading. Here, they talk about their different routes into nursing and why they would encourage others to consider a career in palliative care with Sue Ryder.

Nursing assistants Lynne and Denise pictured wearing their uniforms
Lynne (left) and Denise work together on the hospice's inpatient unit

“I just felt strongly that I needed to go into nursing”

Denise, who is originally from Lancashire and has lived in Reading for 36 years, was inspired to go into nursing after her dad passed away in 2000.

“I didn’t understand a lot about my dad’s diagnosis and after he died I just felt strongly that I needed to go into nursing. My first job was at Royal Berkshire Hospital on an acute medical ward and I stayed there for ten years before then leaving to work in the community.

“I also spent some time in Australia looking after my brother, who sadly died aged 41. When I returned, my daughter’s father-in-law passed away at Sue Ryder Duchess of Kent Hospice. He was only in the hospice for two days, but my daughter said it was the most amazing place and suggested I look into volunteering there.

“I started volunteering at the hospice one day a week, which I loved, but it made me realise how much I missed nursing. I asked if there were any jobs going, and I have now been a member of staff for 18 months.”

A change of career

Lynne’s career and lifestyle changed dramatically when she moved into nursing after 26 years working as a PA for a team of project managers at Hewlett Packard in London.

“I’ve always loved caring for people and I looked after my grandmother, who brought me up. When I was at Hewlett Packard I was always the person to do first aid or to sign up to similar courses.

“After I was made redundant in 2002, I spent some time working as a carer for people at their homes in the community and I also set up my own care company. In 2013, I came to work for Sue Ryder and worked night shifts at the Sue Ryder Palliative Care Hub South Oxfordshire.”

“If I had my time again, I would have come into the nursing sector at the beginning of my career”

“When the Coronavirus pandemic hit, I was asked if I would come and help at Sue Ryder Duchess of Kent Hospice. I wasn’t sure about it, but I gave it a go and I absolutely love it here - I wish I had done it years ago. In fact, if I had my time again, I would have come into the nursing sector at the beginning of my career!”

Talking about the Nursing Assistant role, Lynne says, “No day is the same, but our main role is to make sure patients are safe and comfortable and they have everything they need. If they are bed-bound then we look after all their personal needs and we also look after their family, too. If they’re able to, then we encourage them to get up and move around, and we also help patients to get outside and enjoy the hospice gardens.”

“My rule is you don’t come into this world on your own, so you shouldn’t leave it alone”

“The best part of the role is just getting a thank you. Just a squeeze of the hand, so you know that that patient is happy and content. Sometimes just being silent holding someone's hand is one of the biggest things you can do for a person. We make sure that if people are near to the end of their life that they’re never left alone. My rule is you don’t come into this world on your own, so you shouldn’t leave it alone.”

Denise adds, “It was very difficult during the worst of the Coronavirus pandemic, as visiting was so restricted. You can get a sense if a patient doesn’t have long left, and we didn’t even leave the room - whether it was 20 minutes or two hours. We’d stay there until the family arrived or they passed away.”

Working at Sue Ryder

Denise and Lynne are keen to encourage other people to think about a career in palliative care.

“If someone was considering joining Sue Ryder as a Nurse or Nursing Assistant, I would say absolutely do it. Without a doubt, it’s the best job you can do and you have the time to care and be with patients. Sue Ryder cares about its staff and they have protected us over the last 18 months. They listen, support and there is an open door policy.”

“We don’t treat people like they’re dying, because they’re living”

“People say a hospice must be such a depressing place to be, but it’s not, it’s magical. We don’t treat people like they’re dying, because they’re living. We have a laugh, we dance for them, we sing, we joke and they love it,” Denise said. “It’s not for everybody, but I think it’s a job that’s so worth doing. I love it passionately.”

Lynne adds, “It’s not just the patient, it’s the family too. When a family member is happy to go home and leave their loved one in your care, it speaks volumes. For someone to come into this role they’ve got to have it in their heart.”

Joined at the hip

Not only are Denise and Lynne colleagues, but they've also formed a great friendship.

“We only met a year ago but we just clicked and we’ve become great friends. People say we’re joined at the hip and we don’t do anything apart! They know if one of us is there then the other one won’t be far away!”

Find out more information about Sue Ryder Duchess of Kent Hospice, the expert end of life care they provide and ways you can help to support them

Join the Sue Ryder team

If Denise and Lynne's story has inspired you to consider a career in palliative care, we have more information, advice and our latest nursing opportunities to help you get started. If you want more than just a job, we want you.