Sue's story

"As a relative the support you get from the nurses is so important"

As a Sue Ryder nurse, Sue Hollands takes prode in the support she can offer those under her care
Sue Hollands works as a Community Nurse Specialist (CNS) at Sue Ryder Nettlebed Hospice, and was a district nurse before taking a break to have a family. On the last day of a ‘Back to Nursing’ course, she came to Nettlebed Hospice and realised then and there that this was where she wanted to work.

“Coming here on that last day, seeing it, I loved it so much. People think this is a sad place, they often say I don’t know how you do your job. Actually we have a lot of laughter here, a lot of laughter. It’s a very warm place, a very positive place.”

Her mum Barbara was diagnosed with colorectal cancer and, following surgery, was admitted to the inpatient unit at Nettlebed Hospice in January 2006. Sue said: “Because I was working at Nettlebed, I knew how fantastic it was and I wanted her to come here.

“I used to pop over to my Mum’s bed at coffee time and lunch time but then when she was actually dying I just thought no I can’t do this, I can’t be working here and be called to say actually she’s dying so I just stopped for a while."

"It was lovely to see her symptoms were managed, because when you see your mother in pain the most important thing is that it’s dealt with.”

Sue's experience as a nurse made it easier to have difficult conversations with her mother as she approached end of life: “There were a lot of discussions that I thought were important to have, from do you want to be buried or do you want to be cremated, to where would you like your ashes scattered? I think that’s a really important one you know, to get it right. I also asked her if there were there any special songs she would like played at her funeral or whether she wanted to write letters. She didn’t write letters; she said what she needed to say before she died.

“We were all able to say goodbye and the nurses were just so supportive, really supportive. It was definitely a good death. Mum felt that she was listened to, she was comfortable. It was lovely to see that her symptoms were managed which is so important, because when you see your mother in pain the most important thing is that it’s dealt with.

“Everyone was so warm and caring and professional. They didn’t treat her any differently because she was my Mum but they weren’t wary and they didn’t treat me any differently as a relative. It was a good experience and, although she died, I can look back on it and cherish the happy memories I have of sitting in her room with her talking, reminiscing with my brother and my stepfather.”

The importance of family support

“As a relative the support you get from the nurses is so important and I think being on the other side made me very, very aware that we are looking after the whole family and not just the patient.

"All the things that were important to me as a relative when my Mum was dying I think have made me a better nurse, because I know what relatives are going through. I can actually empathise rather than just sympathise. I can empathise with how they are actually feeling because I’ve been through it here from a relative’s point of view.”

Making a difference to people's lives

As a CNS, Sue goes out and meets with patients and their families in their homes. She helps them to make decisions that will keep them cared for where they want to be for as long as possible and says understanding what family members are going through as well as the patient makes such a difference

“You actually know how they’re being affected by the service and the path of the journey their relative is going on. You know what it’s like to go through it all with them in that way.

“When patients come in they are often very poorly. It’s nice to be able to see them how they were before. Just becausepeople are dying or ill they haven’t lost their sense of humour. They don’t want all doom and gloom. Some of them want to have a bit of a laugh, a bit of a giggle, to feel like themselves; and not be focusing on being ill all of the time.”


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