Mary’s Christmas Memories
Mary is part of our Community Palliative Care Team here at the Hospice; whenever anyone is referred to our community services, they’ll make first contact and help put everything in place. She recently took the time to share with us what it’s like to work here during Christmas…
It’s very busy, we may see friends and family members winding down but we’ll be winding up. Coming up to Christmas is a very, very, busy time as more people are sent home from hospital. So we have more referrals and we have to ensure that everything is set up for them over the Christmas period, that they’ve got all the drugs in place, they’ve got the equipment in place, they’re known to the nursing service, and a GP has seen them.
Having worked at the Hospice for 30 years now, I’ve got a fair few memories.
I remember one time, there was a family trying to have Christmas lunch, and my patient was up and down going to the toilet all the time, getting distressed along with the family. So I paid them a visit and gave him an enema, it wasn’t much and it is usually the district nurses that provide this support but it was a huge relief for him, and the family could enjoy their Christmas. They were really, really grateful and tried to give me a bottle of wine.
I think we feel it when it comes to Christmas, that it’s really important and it may be someone’s last Christmas.
I remember I was looking after a lady who was very poorly and had young grandchildren. I went to visit her on Christmas Eve and her front room was full of wrapped Christmas presents. It was really, really important to her that she got those presents because they were going to be the last presents she gave her grandchildren. It was a lovely thing to see.
Some patients want to go out and buy presents, some aren’t well enough but they still want that card for their wife or their husband or that present, and in the past, I’ve gone and got cards and gifts for them to give to their spouse.
Supporting District Nurses
The Hospice supports district nurses with the confidence and skills they needed to provide care at the end of life at home like setting up syringe drivers and we work together as one big team. This means they manage the majority of care and for things they aren’t too sure about, they can still ring us for advice. So district nurses cover that role very well, and we have noticed that the calls coming through to us were decreased as they met the need that we’d previously been providing.
Our Hospice at Home team works alongside them to make sure people feel safe and cared for in their own homes- even at Christmas.
We have an education programme here at the Hospice and have helped to give district nurses another string to their bow because they have a huge job caring for everyone with everything. They are a bit of a specialist in everything!
So on Christmas Day, we’ll be here at the Hospice, at the end of a phone, ready to speak with families and help as much as we can, whether it be signposting them to other services if necessary or just giving out general advice about symptom control.
Patients are very mindful that it is Christmas Day and may not call anybody unless it is absolutely necessary but we try our best to make it clear that we are here, so if there’s a problem Christmas Day or any day, you ring, don’t wait until the next day. For us, there’s no difference between Christmas Day and Boxing Day, we’re just here to help.
Patients knowing that we’re here Christmas Day and knowing that they’ve got that phone number gives them a great sense of security. Knowing that you can pick up the phone and say “I’ve given them some morphine for their pain but they’re still in pain, what should I do?”, we can respond and ask questions like, “How long ago was that?” and give advice on whether another dose should be given.
Working on Christmas Day is normal for us nurses, you just have to move things around to accommodate the fact that you’re working; Christmas is just another day.
The thing is nobody minds, we all know it’s an important service. For patients and carers, we don’t want people to feel isolated, that there’s no one out there that can help them. We’re here Christmas Day, you’re not disturbing us, it’s not a problem, just phone us.
Being a Clinical Nurse Specialist at the Hospice
For patients and carers, we are their nurses but sometimes we’re a bit more than that and they share a lot with us. I’ve had a family where I’ve looked after the mother, and when the father was dying, after being asked by the family, I’ve looked after him too. They used to send me Christmas presents every year, from the little kids. People remember you.
My colleague is looking after a lady now who has sent me an Easter card every year since around 1989 when I first looked after her husband.
We play an important part in people’s lives and sometimes we don’t recognise that. I keep telling members of the team, don’t underestimate what you do and how families feel about you.
Thank you Mary for taking the time to share your story.
If you’d like to support people like Mary this Christmas, as we do our best to help families to create special memories, please get involved in our festive fundraising activities by clicking here!