The nursing shortage is affecting all specialisms, and one area where nurses are in great demand is palliative care. A report[i] from the Richard’s House Children’s Hospice published in April highlighted that the vacancy rate in the children’s palliative care voluntary sector is currently 10%, higher than the NHS nurse vacancy rate of 7%.
Other research[ii] last year into end-of-life care by NHS England and charity, Marie Curie, found those who die overnight or at the weekend may be denied the right care because only 11% of hospital trusts in England provide specialist palliative services around the clock.
End-of-life care is a challenging but rewarding career choice, especially for experienced nurses looking to use their skills and experience to care for and support patients at this critical time.
Working as part of multi-disciplined team, palliative care nurses prevent and ease suffering, and improve the quality of life for patients with terminal illness. They also provide psychological, social and spiritual support for patients and their family or carers. The role requires a broad range of both clinical and personal skills.
These skills include empathy, compassion and understanding towards patients, excellent communication skills and a strong sense of responsibility, as well as the ability to relate to people from a range of backgrounds.
One palliative care nurse, who understands the demands of the job, is Ward Sister, Laura Marlton, who works at the Cynthia Spencer Hospice, part of Northamptonshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust.
Laura says, “The key qualities needed for Palliative care is to be empathetic, organised, kind, compassionate and deeply caring. To be successful in this role you also need to have an understanding and supportive family who understand what you do.”
The hospice has around 30 nursing staff and the team look after a maximum of 16 patients at any one time.
Laura enjoys the role and says, “Our focus is on providing holistic and individual care for every patient. We really get to know them and go the extra mile to provide the best care and support possible for their needs.
“For instance, if a patient wants to go home for an hour and that is important to them we will arrange it. We have also organised things such as wedding blessings, day trips and birthday parties, and even having pets, including horses, visit.”
Another nurse who works in palliative care at Cransley Hospice, part of NHFT, is staff nurse Pauline where training and learning are encouraged.
Pauline said, “I love working here as it’s a small unit with just nine beds and there is a very good ratio of staff to patients. This means all patients are given a proper amount of time and nothing is rushed, so the care patients receive is quality care. The team here has been hugely welcoming and they really listen to your ideas and take them on board.”
Pauline works a 30-hour week and her commute takes her around 20 minutes. One of the things she appreciates working at the hospice is the great work life balance and the fact that all the senior staff are committed to maintaining an excellent work life balance. The management is also very encouraging about staff doing further training and education.
Pauline also really enjoys living in Northamptonshire and has found there is a real mix of people. She adds, “I love the greenery, the tiny villages and the laid-back feel of Northamptonshire. My three grown up children still live in Scotland and I go back regularly, but I love the quality of life here.”
Northamptonshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust (NHFT) is currently recruiting specialist palliative care nurses or Registered General nurses with an interest in palliative care, to work at the Cynthia Spencer Hospice, the Cransley Hospice and within the community, Hospice at Home team.
To find out more about the career opportunities, visit the Best of Both Worlds website.