Hospice nurse shares her stories of end of life care and why ‘Nurses Are Needed’

Communities / Wed 2nd Jun 2021 at 09:06am

A WEST Essex community nurse, Anne Pemberton (55 years, from Abridge) is a Hospice at Home Team Leader and has been a nurse for over 20 years. Anne tells of how the Hospice at Home team stepped up to care for dying patients during the Covid-19 pandemic, how important it is to support people to die in the place they wish, and why their team needs even more specialist nurses. 

Anne works for St Clare Hospice, a West Essex and East Hertfordshire charity, which is campaigning to raise funds for more nurses to meet the increased need for specialist nursing care for people with complex life-limiting illnesses – through their ‘Nurses Are Needed’ campaign which launched in May 2021. 

Anne shares her experiences of caring in the community, including during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, in a new blog published on the Hospice’s website: “When I go to care for someone in their own home, I am a guest in their house. It is a privilege to be invited in, and to care for someone in their own home.  

“I am driven by the fact that home, more often than not, is the right place for someone to be cared for at the end of their life. The pathway that a person is taking at the end of their life, is a pathway that we cannot control, or stop. But we can make the journey as pain free and as dignified as possible.” 

Recalling caring during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, Anne says: “For me, personally, there is one family that I will never forget. It was right at the start of the pandemic and there was a lot of anxiety surrounding the situation at the time – so emotions were running high. A patient with COVID was being cared for at home, she was dying, and she refused to go into the hospital. As the team leader, I was the first person to go into the home and visit the patient to make an assessment.”

Anne continues, “I just remember her daughter opening the door to me, and being taken to see her mum in the bed. The mother wasn’t old at all, but her breathing was so bad, and it was clear that she was going to die – it was such a sad situation. It then unfolded that the patient’s partner also had COVID, and that he was dying as well. We found out that he was being sent home from hospital so that he too could be cared for at home.” 

“In my 20 years as a nurse I have never, ever nursed two dying patients side-by-side in a double bed. That in itself was a huge challenge for us as a team.” 

“The Hospice at Home healthcare assistants all stood up and agreed to help, proud to go in and do their job caring for this couple. It was very difficult, both emotionally and physically, and such a sad situation. Both patients had quite severe needs, and so we had to work closely together with the district nurses to care for them – but we did it, together. The couple died together, at home.” 

Commenting on the Nurses Are Needed campaign, Anne says: “The expansion of our nursing team is such a positive development for the Hospice. At the moment, there are only three trained nurses in the Hospice at Home team, so the more nurses with the skills and knowledge to support people at the end of life, the more people we can help. With more trained nurses we will be able to develop our service in order to support the needs of palliative care patients, and to take the pressure of the generalised district nurses delivering care to people at the end of their life.  

“At the moment, the district nurses offer the main nursing provision for end of life patients in our area – as well as having to care for other patients with different illnesses. But as specialists in end of life care nursing, St Clare would be better placed to give that care. 

“Having more qualified nurses in the Hospice at Home team, throws the door open to a wider, bigger, more knowledgeable and experienced service – reaching more people. We are seeing much more complex cases now, and we need to be focusing on giving more in-depth care to meet people’s needs – and that requires more nurses.” 

Find out more about the Nurses Are Needed campaign, and donate, at stclarehospice.org.uk/nurses-are 

To read Anne’s full blog, visit stclarehospice.org.uk/blog

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