Paramedic students learn about the importance of palliative care at Sue Ryder St John's Hospice

An innovative placement scheme at Sue Ryder St John's Hospice has given first year paramedic students the chance to find out more about end of life care. 

Paramedic students have been learning about the importance of palliative care at Sue Ryder St John's Hospice
Al Sunderland and Gemma Gibbs from the University of Bedfordshire with a Sue Ryder Nurse and Ward Manager Trevor Dolan, at Sue Ryder St John's Hospice.

“To be a part of the final days of people’s lives – it’s an honour,” said Gemma Gibbs, a first year Paramedic Science student at the University of Bedfordshire.

Gemma and a cohort of fellow first year paramedic students have been invited into Sue Ryder St John’s Hospice to learn about the specialist care that people with life-limiting conditions need.

It is part of a new and innovative placement scheme aiming to educate the students about the importance of palliative care and giving people the best quality of life possible.

By spending three days on the hospice’s 15-bed in-patient unit with nurses and doctors, and out in the community with its Palliative Care Hub nursing team, the students have learned about personalised end of life care and support for both patients and their families.

One lady said: ‘I may be dying, but I am still alive’

“On my first day I shadowed some nursing assistants on the ward, which gave me the chance to sit and talk with patients and understand what they need and how the nurses provide that,” said Gemma.

“The level of care that goes on here is second to none. It’s not somewhere people come to die. One lady said: ‘I may be dying, but I am still alive’ – and that was because of how the staff were making her feel.

“I think it is really important that we as paramedics understand that it’s not just about taking people to hospital or home – there’s more to it than that. I will definitely be taking a lot of what I have learned here with me.”

Personalised care

Trevor Dolan, Ward Manager at Sue Ryder St John’s Hospice, said: “At Sue Ryder we listen to what is important to each person and their family and provide the personalised care each person needs to enjoy the best quality of life they can.

“Through these placements we want the students to learn more about palliative care. It isn’t just about people dying; it is as much about communication, symptom management, and supporting patients and their families physically and emotionally at what can be a very difficult time.

"Part of our role here at the hospice is to work with our local community and fellow healthcare professionals to share our knowledge and raise awareness.”

Becoming end of life aware

Al Sunderland is the Senior Lecturer for Paramedic Science and Course Coordinator at the University of Bedfordshire.

He said: “In three years’ time when the students come to graduate, we hope to have a more conscientious workforce who are end of life aware. With the support of Trevor and the rest of the St John’s team they are getting real life experience of palliative care in a hospice and out in the community, which is invaluable.

“One of the challenges we face as paramedics is working across a lot of different areas,” he adds.

“We have a vital role to play. It is important our students develop their knowledge and confidence so that when they go and see patients with a life-limiting condition they are more in tune with what stage they are at and what they should and shouldn’t be doing for them.”

Find out more about the services offered at Sue Ryder St John’s Hospice.