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

Kayleigh Peacock has been working as a Staff Nurse at Ashgate Hospice since May last year. Here she shares a typical day working on the Inpatient Unit, caring for patients at the end of their lives or with a palliative diagnosis. 

Since I started at Ashgate almost two-and-a-half years ago, I’ve found that no two days are ever the same. As a staff nurse on our busy Inpatient Unit, it is essential that I am adaptive to the ever-changing needs of the patients. That being said, one thing my day always starts with – without fail – is coffee! 

 I, alongside the rest of the team, am responsible for providing care and symptom control to people with a life-limiting illness. Our focus is often ensuring our patients are comfortable and have a good quality of life, enabling people to live as well as possible. At Ashgate we make the most of every moment and ensure patients continue to live well, right to the very end. 

Morning – introducing myself to patients and families 

The day officially starts at 7am when all staff get together to receive a handover from the previous shift. However, we never stop caring at Ashgate and we need to be there for our patients during the day and night, so not all my shifts start at this time. If I’m working the night shift, which I often am, I’ll start in the evening at 7pm. The morning meeting gives us a summary of the care given overnight, any changes in patients’ condition or treatment plan, outlines the goals for the day and informs us of any upcoming admissions or discharges.  

Then we are allocated our patients for the day, typically nursing staff look after three to four patients each, with the support of our fabulous healthcare assistants who work alongside us at Ashgate. I then start the morning drugs round, I also take this opportunity to introduce myself to each patient I will be looking after that day, quite often patients’ families are present with them during their stay, so I also take this opportunity to say hello to them too.

Our patients and their families are at the heart of everything we do here at Ashgate, during my time I’ve shared so many memorable moments with my patients. One particular moment which stands out to me is enabling a father and son to reunite after 12 years of not seeing each other. When there’s not much time left, often our patients’ priorities shift and it is essential we can facilitate and priorities what is important to them, in this case it was doing what we could so they could spend the time they had left together reconnecting. After a few hurdles of COVID-19 tests and so on, the father and son were able to be together once again even if for a short time as sadly the gentleman unexpectedly died that very night.   

Afternoon – going the extra mile for our patients  

Before I know it, a morning of drugs rounds, supporting patients with hygiene needs, syringe driver checks, blood transfusions have passed. I often find that in the afternoon, once all the morning jobs are out of the way, we have time to go that extra mile for our patients. Something I really enjoy doing is enabling our patients to get outside into the fresh air. This afternoon, at around 1.30pm, the sun was shining outside, and when the weather is good, I like to make the best of the fabulous grounds Ashgate has to offer. One lady I have been looking after recently likes nothing more to sit outside in our gardens with her family and friends. I took her outside so she could enjoy the sunshine on her face and a glass of prosecco in hand – we even provided the hat and sun cream too!  

Our amazing catering team are on hand to rustle up an afternoon tea for patients and their families to enjoy. That’s what I love about working at Ashgate.  We do everything we can to make the time that patients and their families are with us as memorable as possible.  During my time at Ashgate I’ve helped organise weddings, movie nights, hen parties, watched families celebrate occasions such as anniversaries and birthdays and more! We also regularly have pets visit patients, which I’m sure the staff enjoy just as much as the patients themselves. 

People often assume that we are just here to care for people at the very end of life, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Often our patients are admitted to Ashgate for effective symptom control to enable them to go on living their lives as well and as fully as possible for however long they may have left. I have looked after individuals whose aim was to control their symptoms well enough to go on road trips around Europe with their family. 

Evening – proud to be part of the Ashgate family 

As the day comes to an end at around at around in the evening, I always take the time to say goodbye to the patient and the families I have been looking after that day. Leaving the Inpatient Unit at the end of a busy day, I leave knowing that I gave the best possible care to our patients and their families. I find this one of the most rewarding things about working for Ashgate, that as a nurse you are given the time, tools and support to go above and beyond for your patients and their families. 

At Ashgate I find I am so much more than a nurse, my name badge might say ‘Staff Nurse’, but I often find myself playing the role of nurse, friend, wedding planner, hairdresser, dog sitter or even barmaid.  

My family are extremely proud of me for working at Ashgate and a phrase I hear often is “oh I couldn’t do what you do”. But honestly, it’s the biggest privilege and honour to care for individuals who are at the end of their life or are nearing the latter stages of their life. We are privileged to be in the position where we are present and able to make their life enjoyable, memorable and comfortable.