Every 12th of May is worldwide International Nurses Day marking the anniversary of Florence Nightingale’s birthday.
We asked one of our Clinical Nurse Specialists, Debbie Worwood, to tell us a bit about what led her to become a nurse and the vital role nursing plays in our Hospice.
At the start of her nursing career, Debbie noticed the huge gaps in awareness and knowledge about the care of those dying. This led to her learning more about the work of Dame Cicely Saunders.
“It was never my intention to train as a nurse and I probably would have laughed as a teenager if someone had told me then that nursing would be my future career! I was far too busy being a rebel. But one day, I was invited to the house of a friend who was a carer for her mother, who had advanced multiple sclerosis. Terrified after being left on my own to look after her mum while she popped out of the room, I surprised myself with how much I could do to help. This led me to start my nurse training and in 1989 I moved to South London and started working as a Staff Nurse on the ward at Christopher’s Hospice, the first purpose-built teaching Hospice in the UK. I was lucky enough to work very closely with Dame Cicely until her death in 2006,” explains Debbie.
Debbie joined the Hospice in 2008, but before this spent some time working at a nursing home in central France and facing the struggle of the local dialect Debbie understood the importance of positive language in communication is, especially as many of the residents were living with Dementia.
“Working 9am – 5pm 7 days a week here at the Hospice our patients can contact us, or the nurses on the ward at any time for advice.
Our role is very different from other Community Nurses, such as the District Nurses as specialists who closely assess the needs of the patients and their families. The first visit to a patient home may take between 1 – 3 hours. Here we ask the patient about their physical symptoms such as pain or breathlessness and find out about their psychological, emotional and spiritual well-being,” Debbie explains.
The CNS teams work closely with GPs and other health care professionals around the patient, advising on prescribing pain relief and other medication.
“Having all done a course in advanced communication, we are all very skilled communicators. Some of our team have worked in community palliative care for many years and support new nurse specialists to develop them.
Sometimes it can be hard to explain the essence of our role – it can seem that we are “all things to all people” but we are specialists and develop very close relationships with patients and their families, sometimes for a very short space of time which can be very intense. We are like a family to each other and support each other very closely.”
While advancing her nursing career, Debbie developed further interest in Dementia and was part of a team designing a purpose-built Nursing Home for people living with the condition. “I became a Dementia Friend 3 years ago and subsequently a Dementia Ambassador for Alzheimer’s society. The social action movement aims to change perceptions and promote an understanding of Dementia in society. Here at the Hospice, we are part of a large dementia-friendly community, formed of local businesses on Goldsworth Park,” concludes Debbie.
If you are a Nurse or Healthcare Assistant and would like to join our team, then please see our current clinical vacancies here.