“We make sure patients live every day to the fullest”

Wilma Jassal takes us through a day in her life as a Nursing Assistant at Sue Ryder St John’s Hospice’s Palliative Care Hub.

Photo of Wilma at St John's Hospice
Wilma (left) alongside a Registered Nurse, as they get ready to visit patients in the community.

“People often think that hospices are about doom and gloom, but it isn’t like that – it’s about living each day. Every day is important and that’s what we do; we try to make sure patients live every day to the fullest.

My role as a Nursing Assistant is varied, which makes every day different. I usually start work around 8am. We have a team meeting here at the Hub and plan what we are doing that day. Then it is time to start our visits.

We offer care to patients who are in the last few weeks of their life. Working under the direction of a Registered Nurse based at the Hub, we provide personal care as well as emotional support to patients and their families in their own homes.

'I make sure people are comfortable and supported all the way through'

I think it is a privilege and an honour to be invited into someone’s home when they are going through their end of life journey. For me, that is why I do this job – to make a difference. I make sure people are comfortable and supported all the way through.

The feedback I get from many of my patients is that dying doesn’t have to be doom and gloom. I often try and bring some humour to the house, when people need it the most. One patient liked us to sing and dance with her!

Supporting patients and their families emotionally is really important. I have a lot of end of life discussions with families.

Sue Ryder St John's Palliative Care Hub

As well as care in people’s homes, we also offer 24/7 support over the phone. Some days I am out in the community doing visits, and other days I am based at the Hub doing phone support.

Depending on what the needs are of the person calling, it will either be something that I or one of the other Nursing Assistants can help them with, or it will be dealt with by one of our Hub’s qualified Nurses.  

The phone calls are varied and can be about anything from a patient who has fallen over to a family member who needs some advice and reassurance. Or we might be asked to go and pick up some emergency medication for a patient.

We do a lot of assessing situations and problem solving – you need to be able to think on your feet. I don’t give up until I solve the problem, whatever it might be.

We also do night sits, where we sit for the night with a patient. It might be just to hold their hand, or it might be so that their partner can get some much-needed rest.

If I have started work at 8am, then I finish at 8pm, after doing a handover with my colleagues.

'When you come to your end of life journey, you need the very best'

Everyone in our team is very proud of what we do and the difference we can make. My job can be sad but it can be fun and rewarding. When you come to your end of life journey, you need the very best, and we work closely as a team to do whatever is needed.

This is not a dress rehearsal, we get one shot at it; we need to get it right because dying does matter and it has to be done in the right way. And that’s what we are here for.”

Photo of Wilma Jassal

Nursing Assistant

Wilma Jassal

Wilma Jassal is a Nursing Assistant at Sue Ryder St John's Hospice in Bedfordshire.