Katie is a Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS) at the hospice. She has been in the community nursing team for ten years following a further 12 years working at the hospice in other nursing roles. She works four days a week as a part of the ten-person community nursing team covering the surgeries from Byfield to Milton-under-Wychwood over three counties. Katie’s patients live in and around Banbury. Here she tells us more about what her day is like.

‘We work 9-5 (ish) and take turns to work on weekends. As part of the COVID-19 response the Katharine House CNS team and the CNS team from two neighbouring hospices took on a Palliative Care Resource Line, which meant we all did some shifts 8am–8pm, day and night, on the phone line. Now that this has finished we are much more available to do our usual work. 

First thing, I check emails and see who else is working that day, and who can be contacted if their patients ring in. There are fewer meetings now, but we get together via video link weekly for clinical meetings, and the doctors are in daily contact with us for advice.

We are each attached to specific surgeries. Ali, Trish, and I cover the Banbury ones, and we each have our own patient list. This means we get to know patients and their families and what’s important to them. Typically, we assess what’s needed, discuss options for medication and other medical issues with the Katharine House doctors, liaise with the GPs, and follow-up with our patients and their families. We act together to support what works best for them. During the pandemic, it’s all been possible by phone but we all hugely value face-to-face contact with patients and are relieved that we can visit more now.

Last week, I sat with a young woman who’s about to lose her mum and tried to answer her questions. Today I listened to a patient to help him find new hopes now that the goalposts have changed for him. He'll meet his next grandchild, who is due any day now, and he'll collect a few photos and mementos so that when the baby grows up, she/he will know there was a loving grandad.

Our visits aren’t exactly spontaneous, and we do now change into ‘fancy dress’ first! Patients are very understanding when I turn up in scrubs, apron, mask, and gloves. Sometimes it’s been really cold and I’ve found that a second top makes quite a difference. Then a little while ago when it was really hot (remember that??) I visited someone who had air conditioning and as I steamed away in the plastic apron and face mask, my glasses steamed up completely! I had to take them off to see anything at all.

'During the pandemic it’s all been possible by phone but we all hugely value face-to-face contact with patients, and are relieved that we can visit more now.' 

I’ve been working from home mostly, coming into the hospice one or two days a week on average. It’s a bit odd working from home, I’ve taken the kitchen table upstairs to the spare room which has both internet and mobile phone signal, and sit there for our video linked meetings, sometimes joined by the cat. I’d thought it would be difficult to concentrate working from home but actually it’s the opposite. The other nurses have also said that hours pass before we realise we haven’t actually moved from the spot we’re sat in, and are completely stuck in a ‘C’ shape!! Because everything is online there’s no walking about to filing cupboards, or going to find a doctor for advice, or going out visiting. 

I do drink lots of cups of tea and coffee throughout the day and lunch is also eaten pretty much on the go, but I try to go out for a bit of a walk with my friend Karen for a breath of fresh air. If we’re speedy we can get around Adderbury lakes in half an hour, although it’s been closed recently and we’ve stayed in the hospice garden.

If I’m in the hospice, it’s often because it’s my turn to be a triage nurse. I pick up the new referrals and check we have the correct information for them. If it’s urgent I’d ring to see how we can help today, but usually, we prefer to make the first call to our patients ourselves. Then it’s a matter of being available to take calls and queries throughout the day. Last week, we had advised a patient about changing his medication for pain and today I rang to see if it's helping and explained more about managing any side effects.

When I’m not working, I like being outside, we’ve found some lovely walks nearby in all different directions. I also like to spend my time on the allotment. Since it’s been raining, there are all sorts of things popping out of the ground, such as the spinach that I found yesterday in a weedy bit I don’t remember planting! Like everyone else at the moment, I’m really appreciating being with family and friends and catching up with what everyone’s been up to.

I like being at Katharine House Hospice - I know the saying ‘a hospice is a movement, not a building’, but we learn from and support each other by working together. We know each other well enough to notice when one of us needs a hand or a listening ear. We all believe in the work of the hospice and value its real importance to our community. I am proud that we’ve committed to this, even through these strange COVID-19 times. The Katharine House team are great people to work with!'

Katharine House Hospice