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Ashgate Hospice > A day in the life of… a hospice day services nurse

Gail Fawbert has been caring for patients at Ashgate for 18-and-a-half years. Here she shares a typical day as part of the Day Services team, caring for people with a palliative diagnosis. 

The way we care for patients has changed so much since the pandemic unfolded more than 18 months ago. As a Registered Nurse in the Day Services team at Ashgate, it is my role to support people who have been diagnosed with a life-limiting condition. 

It’s often a challenge having to limit face-to-face contact with people as sometimes it can be very difficult to complete assessments with a patient over the phone. But in such a short space of time, our team has done a fantastic job in developing our virtual service so we can continue to be there for the people who need us.  

Morning – hearing about the loss of a patient 

My day usually starts at 8.30am, when I open my laptop to check for any emails or urgent messages that I may have received overnight. I will then read through our patients’ files for any updates and prioritise those with the most urgent needs first. Each morning we attend a virtual referral meeting with the community team to discuss any referrals to our service and discuss patients that may require their input. 

After responding to emails and attending our morning meeting, I hear that a patient I’d previously supported had sadly died after a diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease and associated dementia. During my time supporting them, they had wished to stay at home, but the family were struggling to manage caring for them due to the deteriorating nature of the disease. At one point they were close to reaching crisis point. Determined to do everything I could to help, I completed an assessment and offered advice on what services were available to them as well as symptom management and medication advice. As the patient deteriorated, I referred them to one of our Occupational Therapists for assessment of equipment to enable them to remain at home and then onto the Specialist Dementia Palliative Care Team for a review of the patient, who went on to support them until the end of their life. 

Throughout the process, I had stayed in contact with the patient’s family to offer emotional support and any advice I could. It was sad to hear that the patient had died, but I was glad to hear that as a result of my input, the patient experienced a peaceful death at home with their family around them. 

Afternoon – supporting patients at our new Community Hub 

From 1pm, I was based at our new Community Hub, helping to facilitate groups and face-to-face patient contact, which I really enjoy and have missed massively throughout the pandemic. I’ve been supporting a small group of patients through education sessions, relaxation, complementary therapy sessions and chats over a cuppa with a biscuit. We are developing lots of pilots at present to see how our service can be improved which is challenging but also exciting.

The most rewarding part of my job is knowing that I have done my best on someone else’s behalf. Sometimes things that may seem small to me have a huge impact on others, such as a friendly call or supporting someone to access the help they need.  

Evening – every day is different 

Ideally, I end my working day knowing that I’ve completed everything I aimed to and that my work is planned for the next day, however that isn’t always the case! You never know what is going happen or if a patient is going to contact you for advice or support. If something unexpected crops up then that often takes priority as it will normally be more urgent. After 18-and-a-half years in palliative and end-of-life care, every single day always guarantees to be different. 

When I tell people about what I do for a job, they’re often shocked that I talk to people about their end of life wishes as well as their fears and worries of death and dying. I feel truly privileged to meet the people that I do, supporting people during difficult times of their lives. 

My family are proud that I work for the hospice and they tell everyone they know!  It’s not necessary something I talk about a lot outside of work, but my family certainly do!