I’ve been working at LOROS Hospice for eight years. It’s my second job since qualifying in 1995. My first role, after completing a nursing degree at Leicester’s De Montfort University, was a nurse in the oncology department at Leicester Royal Infirmary, where I spent 13 years.
I worked with acute cancer patients and it’s where I developed a real passion for working in palliative care. After shadowing a Macmillan nurse during a training day, I decided I wanted to work in end-of-life care and applied for a specialist community nurse role at LOROS.
I support patients who have been given a palliative diagnosis in their homes. The patients are mainly people with terminal cancer, but also terminal heart disease and lung disease. I have recently been working with a patient with end-stage dementia too.
I provide support for their families and work with other agencies and healthcare providers, to deliver a tailored care programme.
What I love most is getting to know my patients. I help people be as comfortable and pain-free as possible, enabling them to die at home, which is what many people prefer.
I was attracted to the role as it’s all about developing relationships with patients over several weeks or months, which is different to a hospital environment. It’s rewarding to build up trust with a patient.
“Listening and good communication are core skills for the role”
When I first go into someone’s home, I’m a stranger to them but people will invite me in and will run through very personal things so that I can understand what they need to manage their condition. By the end of my first visit, we usually have a strong bond of trust.
When I first meet a patient, I need to build up a picture quickly and investigate their condition and their emotional wellbeing. I put the pieces together and prepare a plan of how we will support them. Listening and good communication are core skills for the role.
My role is fairly autonomous, and I have my own case load. I plan my own day, visiting the patients who need me most, rather than being told where to go.
For our patients, one of the key benefits of a community nurse is we are not so restricted on time. I can sometimes spend up to two hours with a patient, if that’s what needed
The role is challenging and it can be very sad. The most difficult thing to get your head round is that you can’t fix or cure someone. This doesn’t get any easier; I just learn to deal with it better.
Sometimes I find I get really upset about patients. Some you really connect with but then I realise all I can do is make their last few months, weeks or days that bit better. For me this can be heart-breaking.
To help community nurses deal with the emotional side of the job, LOROS provides a counselling service which is a fantastic support. I attend every session and find it incredibly useful to process my emotions.
I highly recommend working in palliative care in the community. The job is challenging, but the rewards are immense. The patients are always a real inspiration to me. They must deal with pain and the emotional side of dying. It’s a privilege for me to help them and make sure their final days are as comfortable as possible.
Becky Paulson is a community nurse specialist at LOROS Hospice in Leicestershire