Helen is Katharine House Hospice’s Head of the Inpatient Unit and has been since July last year, although she’s been working in palliative care for the last 17 years, seven of which have been at the hospice. Here she gives us a picture of a day working at Katharine House.

I start my day with the team joining the 7.30am handover. In doing this I can meet the night staff and the day staff and see as many team members as possible. I like to check in on how they are. It also gives me an opportunity to gain insight into the current patients on the unit and get a general feel for the day. For example, are there specific times during the day when they might need extra support and benefit from my presence?

It’s then time to go to the doctor’s handover at 9.15am, where I get an opportunity to meet other members of the multi-disciplinary team, so that could be the social workers, the community nurses, and certainly the doctors. At that meeting, we update on any changes and decisions and reviews of patients.

We have a minimum of two trained nurses on each shift supported by two to three healthcare assistants. I feel very privileged to be part of an amazing team and organisation.

The difference we can make is what makes me so proud to work at Katharine House. I like to reflect on patients’ journeys and I often say to the team, ‘It’s not our journey, but if we can come alongside our patients and make a difference, then it’s worthwhile.’ 

Throughout the day I’ll be in my office and all around the in-patient unit. I do like to have as much visible presence as I can and that’s not just for the staff but for the patients and relatives as well. I like to introduce myself as early as possible on admission so that they know who I am and how my role integrates with the team.

My office is located near to the in-patient unit. When I can, I like to have my door open so that I can say hello to people as they walk by. I share my office with Nic Rossiter, who is my senior staff nurse. We’re both reasonably new to our posts and we’re building a strong relationship - we have a great wish to care for and support our team so that they can deliver excellent nursing care.

However, there are inevitably times when I have to lock myself away or be elsewhere in the hospice. As a part of the operational leadership team, I have a share in the overall safety and running of the inpatient unit as well as being involved in policy writing and reviews, and delivering education to trained nurses, healthcare assistants and students, both formally and informally. 

Breaks for the team are often a challenge to take. At lunchtime, we have a nurses’ rest room and a staff dining room where we can meet up. We’re also utilising the gardens a lot more at present to have time out. I encourage people to sit together, although we’re social distancing at the moment, but they might also feel the need to sit alone, to have some quiet time.

I always end my day by taking the time to see what I have achieved and that’s a motto for the team as well. I think as nurses, we’re very good at looking at what we haven’t done, rather than recognising what we have done.

I then like to take my badge off and leave it in my desk drawer. At that point I shift my focus from Helen at IPU to Helen - wife, mother and friend. I try very hard to separate work and home, which isn’t always easy but I try to do that and to encourage that for others.

Home is really important to me. It’s a place where I feel very safe and secure with my husband and children. I enjoy walking and I love the canals network. If I don’t think anyone is looking, then you may find me dancing in the kitchen. 

Last year I did a parachute jump to raise money for the hospice. I’d thought about it for years and when I saw fundraising advertising that they were doing one very near a significant birthday, I thought, ‘Right, I’m going to do it!’ 14,000 feet and it was absolutely exhilarating. Yes! I’d do it again!

In the thirty years that I’ve been working in nursing, Katharine House is the happiest place I’ve ever worked. There are tears, but you’ll hear a lot of laughter. It’s a beautiful place. 

I can’t say enough how proud and privileged I am to be a part of the hospice. As an organisation we’re an outstanding team and I’d like to thank each and every one of the team who help me do my job and for all the support we all give to the community. I couldn’t meet my role without them and it does make me very, very proud.

Katharine House Hospice