“When my brother was at Wheatfields it made me realise what a lovely job palliative care is - to provide that reassurance for patients and families in their final weeks”

24 Jun 2021

When Nicola found herself hospitalised with Covid-19 just a few weeks after the death of her brother at Sue Ryder Wheatfields Hospice, it was a life-changing experience. After a period of recuperation at home, Nicola saw an advert for Sue Ryder Palliative Care Hub South Oxfordshire and decided the time was right to fulfil a long-held ambition to work in palliative care.

Giving something back

“Having COVID-19 makes you reflect on your life and coming together with my brother’s experience at Wheatfields, it made me feel that I wanted to give something back,” Nicola said.

She originally trained and worked as a nurse before going on to train as a midwife. After moving south from Yorkshire, she worked at the Royal Berkshire Hospital and recently took early retirement after more than 30 years with the NHS.

“I got COVID at the end of March and was hospitalised for about a week, which wasn’t a nice experience as it was all escalating at that point and I just wanted to get home. But once I got home, I spent a month in the garden recuperating and I got bored stiff.

“I realised I needed to be doing something and that’s when I saw the Sue Ryder job advertised. I had always fancied working in palliative care, but never had the courage to leave the NHS after working there for so long.”

Starting in palliative care

Nicola decided to apply for the role as a Healthcare Assistant with the Hospice at Home team at Sue Ryder’s Palliative Care Hub South Oxfordshire. After an online application process, she was offered the job and has been part of the Hospice at Home team, visiting and caring for patients in their own homes, since June 2020.

“It might sound strange, but I actually get more job satisfaction from palliative care than I ever did as a midwife. When my brother was nursed at Wheatfields it made me realise what a lovely job palliative care is - to be able to provide that reassurance for patients and families in their final weeks. My brother’s family still talk about the experience so positively.”

“As a patient you are taken under the wing of Sue Ryder”

And Nicola says working with Sue Ryder has given her a much clearer understanding of how the different arms of the healthcare sector work together. “Even when my brother was being cared for by Sue Ryder I don’t think we fully understood that it was a charity working alongside the NHS and the District Nurses, but now I understand much better how the care system works.

“As a patient you are literally taken under the wing of Sue Ryder. People can be chasing round the social care system not knowing who to call and who to ask for advice, but when they are with Sue Ryder we take care of all that. It’s so difficult for people who are trying to care for a loved one and it’s so reassuring for them to know there is someone they can call.”

“It’s a lovely job for someone of any age”

The Hospice at Home team has seen patient numbers increasing over the last year as the pandemic has meant more and more people are choosing to die at home. Nicola said: “I’m glad I have been working through the coronavirus pandemic. It has got me out and about and people so appreciate it when you are there.

“We are wearing full PPE and social distancing and we also make sure there is good ventilation in the rooms, but the care we give hasn’t changed. You meet so many different people from different backgrounds - it’s a really nice way of working. I work with a great team – they are incredibly caring and compassionate. It’s a lovely job for someone of any age.”

At the moment Nicola works as bank staff and does two to four shifts a week depending on what other commitments she has. She said: “Both my children are at university now and I had just been thinking, what am I going to do next? I’m so lucky that I have found something I really enjoy which also allows me the flexibility I wanted.”

A nurse in a light blue Sue Ryder uniform smiles at a female patient sat up in a bed.

Start your career in palliative care

At Sue Ryder, we have many different palliative care roles. We're always looking for Registered Nurses and Healthcare Assistants to help us provide expert, compassionate care when it matters most, helping people through the toughest times of their lives.

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