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'What makes me proudest of all is supporting people who wish to die at home'

Candice Pellett has held national roles but is most proud of supporting people who wish to die at home.

Queen’s Nurse Candice Pellett had always wanted to be a nurse, but left school and went into banking.

“But I never gave up on the dream, having always wanted to do it since seeing nurses on television, and my aunt and friend were nurses,” she says. “So, after I had children, I became an auxiliary nurse, then trained and was qualified by 1995.”

She attended community nurse training at De Montfort University in Leicester and, after graduating with a BSc, enjoyed district nursing in South Lincolnshire.

“I love being a district nurse. In a busy ward with phones going and doctors’ rounds, you can’t really talk to a patient or carer in the same way you can when you shut the door in their home and just speak to them without interruptions.”

Ms Pellett is passionate about palliative and end-of-life nursing.

“Sometimes you’ll see patients when they’ve just been diagnosed with cancer and are having chemotherapy. You’ll go in and flush their peripherally inserted central catheter lines in between treatments, then you may meet them several years later when they require palliation. That’s what this job is about – building those relationships.”

She says it’s essential to help the carer as much as the patient. Going into people’s homes she can see when something is not right – such as housework not done or a carer looking unkempt, which may indicate she should step in to get them additional help.

Her present role as a case manager district nurse with Lincolnshire Community Health Services sees her working with palliative care patients and those with complex conditions. She works closely with Macmillan nurses, the rest of the district nursing team and GPs to ensure patients at the end of life receive joined-up care.

“But it was when I became a Queen’s Nurse five years ago that my career really took off,” she says. “I had a chance to sit on the Transforming Community Services Board and was then offered a three-year secondment as clinical lead for nursing. I had never worked in an open-plan office even and, here I was, suited and booted and going to Whitehall twice a week.”

The TCSB work produced six clinical guides, which were published in 2009.

“The one I am most proud of is the one on end of life as that’s my area of knowledge,” she says.

“People still talk to me about it now. They say it gave them permission as clinicians to go to their managers and say they should, for example, be using the Liverpool Care Pathway or The Gold Standards Framework. The guides we have produced have changed service delivery for the better – that is satisfying.”

Before the Department of Health secondment, she was seconded to the University of Nottingham as a lecturer/practitioner. Her Queen’s Nurse status has led to places on other nursing boards, including the Royal College of Nursing District Nursing Steering Committee and the National Interprofessional Dignity Group. She has also written a book chapter on dignity in healthcare.

“I was recommended to be a Queen’s Nurse not by colleagues but by patients, and that is very humbling. What makes me proudest of all is supporting people who wish to die at home.

“We get so many cards from families thanking us for helping their loved one at the time they most need it. We don’t do it for reward, but it’s nice to get that gratitude and know you’ve helped someone.”

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