“Palliative care envelops you and holds you”

Dr Zoe Salmon retired as Speciality Doctor in Palliative Medicine from Sue Ryder Leckhampton Court Hospice after 16 years providing expert and compassionate palliative care to families in Gloucestershire. Here, she shares why she loved her job, the inspiring team effort at the hospice and how caring for people through the most difficult times was so life-affirming.

Dr Zoe Salmon, at work on the inpatient unit at Sue Ryder Leckhampton Court Hospice
Dr Zoe Salmon on the inpatient unit at Sue Ryder Leckhampton Court Hospice

A varied career in care

Dr Zoe Salmon held the role of Speciality Doctor in Palliative Medicine at Sue Ryder Leckhampton Court Hospice after a varied career as a Doctor in the Royal Air Force, in Occupational Therapy at Gloucester, Cheltenham and Swindon hospitals and at the Honda car factory in Swindon.

As she retires, Dr Salmon shares some insight into what it is like working in palliative care with Sue Ryder. “The best part has to be the staff I have worked with,” she said. “Every time you tell someone you work at a hospice the reaction is ‘Oh that must be so dismal, depressing and upsetting’. It might sound bizarre, but it is the absolute opposite. It is the one of the loveliest, most life affirming and fun places to work.

“I have been inspired daily by the colleagues I work with and the courage I have seen from patients and their relatives, who are dealing with such difficult situations.

“Hospices are not sad places to work at all, although that is what people perceive it to be. The hospice world is a different world. It runs in parallel to world outside and people don’t know about it until they step into it.”

Working together for patients

Dr Salmon said being part of an expert team is what has helped make her job so rewarding. “Everyone is working to the same aim and you all work together. It doesn’t matter where you work or what your role is, we all work to one aim and that is to make our patients feel safe and secure.”

“We can’t do that without each other. It is one huge, massive team effort. Everyone is a cog in a big wheel.”

Zoe said that Sue Ryder Leckhampton Court Hospice is a special place to work, too. “The building looks magnificent when you drive up the main driveway in spring. Daffodils line the drive and there is so much wildlife outside. Patients love reporting back on whether they have seen foxes and deer.”

But, that’s not the only reason why it is so special. “People don’t realise we are so specialist. People don’t realise we are the only specialist palliative care inpatient unit in the whole of Gloucestershire.”

“We care for people aged 18 and over with all types of medical conditions too, and I don’t think people realise that.”

Sue Ryder Leckhampton Court Hospice from the front entrance, showing flower beds near the front gate
The front entrance of Sue Ryder Leckhampton Court Hospice (Credit: Roger Bracewell)

Challenging myths about hospices

After fifteen years working in the specialist field of palliative care, Zoe is keen to challenge some of the myths many people hold about the sector.

“Hospices are not places where people go to die. The main ethos of hospices these days is to provide a place where you can receive symptom control to improve your quality of life to get you back home if that is your wish. Hospices help people carry on living.

“I have helped care for countless numbers of patients over the past 16 years who we have helped get back home. That is a success and it all depends on our team approach – everyone helps. Our physiotherapists, Sue Ryder Nurses, occupational therapists, chaplain and family support team all work together to try and improve a patient’s quality of life so that they can go back home if that is their wish.

“Very often people don’t want to come in when they hear the word hospice. But the reality is when people come to us they don’t want to leave as they feel so safe and secure. The tensions they might have had disappear, and they feel safe.

“That is what lots of patients have said to me over the years. That they feel safe.”

“It’s been a massive privilege”

Zoe leaves Sue Ryder with fond memories. “I have really enjoyed working at Sue Ryder. The work and people you work with are what makes the job so enjoyable.”

“It’s been a massive privilege to have been part of the lives of patients and relatives who have received our care. I leave the hospice remembering them and the courage they have shown.”

“After reading this, if I could leave people with three words to remember about what hospices are and do I would want them to be hospices are safe, calm and enveloping.

“The word ‘palliative’ comes from the Latin word ‘pallium’ which means cloak. And that is what palliative care does – it envelops you, it holds you and it gives you safety and security.”

Find out more information about Sue Ryder Leckhampton Court Hospice, the expert palliative care they provide and ways you can help to support them.

Working in palliative care

If Dr Zoe’s experiences have inspired you to find out more about a career in palliative care with Sue Ryder, take a look at our current job opportunities.

Recently retired Speciality Doctor in Palliative Medicine at Sue Ryder Leckhampton Court Hospice

Recently retired Speciality Doctor in Palliative Medicine at Sue Ryder Leckhampton Court Hospice

Dr Zoe Salmon

Dr Zoe Salmon held the role of Speciality Doctor in Palliative Medicine at Sue Ryder Leckhampton Court Hospice after a varied career as a Doctor in the Royal Air Force and in Occupational Therapy. Her career at Sue Ryder spanned 16 years.