We talk to Marie Cooper, practice development lead at Hospice UK (formally known as Help the Hospices), who has been a nurse for 32 years.
Why did you become a nurse?
I had a weekend job as a care assistant in a care home for older, blind people. The matron there was fabulous. She took me under her wing and encouraged me to become a nurse. She even told me exactly where I should apply.
Where did you train?
The London Hospital.
What was your first job?
It was in neurosurgery. The comprehensive patient “head to toe” assessment, which I learnt there, has underpinned my approach to clinical care throughout my career.
What is the trait you least like in yourself and why?
I’m working to try and reduce my vocal inner critic.
Whom have you learnt most from in your nursing career?
It has to be the many patients and their families I’ve had the privilege of caring for. I learnt from them what really matters when people feel ill, vulnerable and frightened. A patient in that situation wants to feel safe, listened to and ultimately cared for by a competent, caring team, who will do their best for them. For me, the people working in hospice care are the best exemplars of this.
What advice would you give someone starting out?
Take your patients seriously, but don’t take yourself too seriously. Retain your curiosity and keep asking questions. Eat healthily and drink water when on shift. Your own wellbeing is vital.
Never lose sight of the privilege and responsibilty of caring for people who are often at a vulnerable phase of their life
What keeps you awake?
I am struggling to get out of the habit of having my radio on all night.
What’s the most satisfying part of your job?
Working on innovative projects to improve end-of-life care and collaborating with colleagues from across the health and social sector to achieve this.
What’s your proudest achievement?
Being able to use my nursing skills to care for my father at home in his last weeks of life. It enabled my family to become more involved in aspects of his care. It left such a positive legacy for my whole family.
What will change nursing in the next decade?
The use of technology in ensuring robust communication and care management, which can be accessed by the patient and the multiple agents involved in their care.
What would you have done if you hadn’t become a nurse?
What job would you like to be doing in five years?
Anything involving nursing.
What makes a good nurse?
Never losing sight of the privilege and responsibility of caring for people who are often at a vulnerable phase of their life. Also, maintaining a clinical curiosity about your patient’s response to care and treatment - is it working, what else should be considered?
If you could change one thing in healthcare, what would it be?
For patients to recognise both their rights and responsibilities and play a more active role in their care, in terms of helping prevent health conditions and also managing them.
What’s your ideal weekend?
Time spent with family and friends by the sea.
If you could spend an hour with someone, who would it be?
My dad, he died far too soon and I miss his wise perspective on life.