Managing Our Inpatient Unit

What do you do here at the Hospice?

My title is Lead Nurse of the Inpatient Unit (IPU) here at the Hospice. The IPU is made up of single rooms and small wards and a small family centre for patients who have a family member or friend able to stay with them.

Patients may be admitted for short periods for assessment, symptom management or for respite. The average stay for most patients is two weeks. Many patients return home whilst some spend their last days being cared for in the Inpatient Unit.

So I’m basically the ward manager and I have 24 hour responsibility for the care that is given to patients on the unit.

Have you always wanted to care for people?

I knew I wanted to work with people after I left school, but didn’t know in what capacity. But then my Grandma became very ill and I looked after her and it encouraged me to become a nurse.

When did you join Birmingham St Mary’s Hospice?

I joined the Hospice in January of this year.

Do you ever feel overwhelmed caring for people with terminal illnesses?

Caring for the terminally ill can become overwhelming, but it is important to remember that this event is happening to someone and their family and not to me. It is only human to get upset, but as a nurse I think it’s important to ensure you are professional but not distant.

What would you say to someone who thought hospices were just about death and dying? 

I would tell them that that is only part of what we do here. The Hospice is also about connecting with people in the community who may be very ill but have life to live. Around half of our patients go home and they often feel better than they did before they came in because we have been able to help with their symptoms.

How has working at Birmingham St Mary’s changed your own view of life and of death?

The Hospice does have a different mindset in that goals of care and ‘outcomes’ are different than from say working on a surgical ward in a hospital. In the Hospice our goals are around what the patient wants and needs to help them feel better albeit for maybe a short time. The main focus at Birmingham St Mary’s is for quality of life.

How do you care for patients in the week leading up to Christmas?

This is my first Christmas here, but we have carol singers booked and Christmas dinner for the patients. Two of the staff nurses who are Christmas mad and are very ‘arty’ are going all out to make the ward Christmassy for the patients and their families, as well as the staff!

Thank you Cath for sharing your story with us and what it’s like to manage the IPU at Birmingham St Mary’s! To support the Hospice and local families living with a terminal illness, please get involved in our fundraising campaigns like the Christmas Poster.

Click here to get your free poster today and spread the festive cheer with your family and friends over the Christmas period! Instead of writing festive messages, turn our poster into a creative Christmas party game by summing up Christmas in 4 words or coming up with your very own Christmas superheroes (and villains) like Bauble Boy!

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