|Children's Hospice Nurse|
|Children's Hospice in Yorkshire|
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A day in the life of a Children's Hospice Nurse in the United Kingdom
Hospice care is often profoundly misunderstood. What may be surprising to some people is that my job is on the whole one of the most uplifting, positive and joyful places to be.
Briefly describe the organisation you work for
We are a charity providing care for children and young people with life-limiting and life-threatening conditions. We aim for care to be high quality, holistic and family led. It can include respite stays, symptom control, community care, end of life care and bereavement support.
What do you do?
Hospice care is often profoundly misunderstood. What may be surprising to some people is that my job is on the whole one of the most uplifting, positive and joyful places to be. Without a doubt it can also be sad and hugely challenging at times. Regardless, it is always a privilege.
A career in Nursing guarantees that every day will be different, this is definitely true in palliative care. As a result, it is quite difficult to sum up all that we do, but I will try my best!
I am part of the care team, one of the many different teams that makes up the organisation. We consist of registered children's and learning disability nurses, doctors, physiotherapists, occupational therapists, social workers and carers. Generally, we look after children and young people on a 1:1 basis. We aim for care to be holistic, this means embracing someones physical, social, emotional and spiritual needs in life, death and beyond. We focus on enhancing quality of life and supporting families as a whole.
Many of the children and young people we look after have complex needs. This means caring for them can include: support with personal care and mobilisation, a wide variety of medication, enteral feeding, tracheostomies, ventilators, parenteral nutrition, a huge selection of devices and interventions and most importantly having fun! Art and music play a big part in what we do. Making memories is an integral part of hospice care, what better way to do it than through creativity?
Reflecting upon your past employment and education, what led you to your current career choice?
As a student nurse, a placement in the hospice I now work in sparked an interest in palliative care and caring for children with complex needs. Since that placement, I had always wanted to return as a qualified nurse.
Living and working in London had also been a longstanding dream, so I began my career in Paediatric Intensive Care in Great Ormond Street Hospital. I learnt loads and loved living in London, but a number of factors had me thinking about a new job.
The combination of leaving London, the first lockdown in response to Covid-19 and not being qualified long enough to work on the Nursing Bank resulted in me spending a few months working as a healthcare assistant in an adult hospice. This was a wonderful experience but not quite what I had planned. Eventually, as lockdown eased it was possible for me to begin my current job.
Everyone has opinions on the 'right' and 'wrong' places to work, particularly for your first job as a nurse. My advice is that the only 'wrong' place to work is one where you are unhappy. If there is an area you are passionate about, go for it!
Is your current job sector different from what you thought you would enter when you graduated?
Describe your most memorable day at work
Working with an amazing team to make the most unthinkable event - the death of a child - as special, peaceful and memorable as possible.
On the whole, being able to be a part of these families' lives and hopefully contribute in a positive way is one of the best reasons to get up in the morning.
Are there any challenges associated with your job?
Many! The nature of the job means it can be incredibly emotionally challenging. Teamwork, self care and reflection are absolutely crucial in managing the mental load.
The children and young people we care for live with such a huge variety of conditions and have an array of needs. There's lots to learn! Again, the support from an outstanding team makes everything easier.
What’s your work environment and culture like?
The set up of the hospice is to be as 'homely' as possible, we don't wear uniform and everyone eats together - staff, children and their families. We have lots of social spaces, playrooms, a sensory room, art and music rooms and a massive garden, we go on trips and have lots of fun. Although we still provide clinical interventions, it's in the least clinical way possible. The atmosphere of a hospice is very different to other healthcare settings, particularly a children's one! It's difficult to describe, if you get the opportunity to spend some time in one as a student, I highly recommend it.
I work 12.5 hour shifts, usually this takes the form of three shifts a week, occasionally four. These can be any day of the week and includes night shifts. Work life balance can be a challenge, it can be difficult not to take work home with you. Getting into good habits and making time for things you enjoy is helpful to keep that balance and ensure you are looking after yourself too.
What extracurricular activities did you undertake at university and what transferable skills did you develop through these?
It can be difficult to be a consistent part of a society as a student nurse, but definitely not impossible! I would 100% recommend getting involved in extra-curricular activities, it really helps to get you out of the nursing / healthcare 'bubble' and keep the work-life balance! I enjoyed rowing and lacrosse at uni, but you may have to accept that you can't be as dedicated with your time as other students. Regardless, just enjoy it.
Getting involved in things going on within your department can also be hugely enriching.
I really enjoyed helping out on open days and interview days, planning for curriculum development, supporting other cohorts and was a student representative for Nursing. For me, spending time getting involved in all the extra things really helped develop my confidence in my own knowledge and using this to teach and support others. It was amazing to feel part of the Health Sciences team through these events, it felt like a small way of 'giving back' to all the wonderful people in it who work so hard to deliver the degree.
What would you like to do next with your career?
I was always someone who desperately tried to plan the next few years of my life in great detail. My first year as a nurse has taught me that you just never know what is going to happen, life can throw you some curveballs, so I am trying to learn to go with the flow. I am definitely no less ambitious, but just look forward to seeing what opportunity may arise.
So, for the present, I want to continue enjoying what I am doing and developing my confidence and skills as a registered practitioner. For the future, I have always wanted to do a Masters degree and hope that this is something I can work towards. But that's all the planning I will be doing!
What top tips do you have for York students preparing for today’s job market and life after graduation?
It can be scary, but everyone is in the same boat. Support your peers and let them support you too. Remember why you wanted to be a nurse and find a job that doesn't let you forget it.
What topics from students are you happy to answer questions on?
Anything! Feel free to get in touch.
If you like the look of Megan’s profile, the next steps are down to you! You can send Megan a message to find out more about their career journey.