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Pam Garvey has worked at Ashgate Hospice for more than 30 years. Here she outlines a typical day caring for end of life patients in their own homes.
I’ve recently celebrated my 65th birthday and have been caring for patients at Ashgate for almost half of my life now. The past 30 years have passed by so quickly, but I’m so glad that I followed my heart and joined the hospice team back in 1991. Two years after starting out on the Inpatient Unit, Ashgate extended our care offering to people in their own homes, and I instantly knew that’s where I wanted to be.
The role has certainly changed since then, there were no mobile phones or sat navs; our matron, Jean, would wave us off, armed with just a map and the patient’s details – that’s where each day began!
It’s much easier to navigate across North Derbyshire these days, but the way we work has changed significantly since the pandemic unfolded last year. Our goal has always remained the same though: to provide excellent, compassionate palliative and end of life care to the people who need us.
Morning – supporting a seriously ill patient
My day starts at 8.15am with a call from my Team Lead, who tells me about a seriously ill patient we’ve been supporting at home; she’s asking to be admitted to our Inpatient Unit the next day. Patients’ needs and situations often change rapidly in palliative care, so we must be prepared to be there to support them. I change my plans to go out to the lady’s house at the beginning of the day. I arrive at her house at 8am and sit with her; it’s important that I keep her informed with the situation, so I tell her we are waiting to hear if a bed on the Inpatient Unit is available. She says she’s “ready to go”.
I get a telephone call from Libby, one of our Palliative Care Nurses, who lets us know there is a bed available, and that she’ll book an ambulance immediately. Our patient is very relieved to hear the news and I reassure her that I’ll stay with her until the ambulance arrives – she’s very grateful but understandably exhausted, so settles down for a much-needed rest.
We often find we’ll be waiting hours for the ambulance to arrive, so I take the opportunity to make us a coffee – no sooner than the kettle boils does the ambulance arrive! The crew are professional, friendly and incredibly empathetic with the patient, as they slowly and gently transfer her onto the ambulance. Soon after they had left, whilst I was locking up the patient’s house for her, I thought about how kind they were and how proud I was to be part of the bigger team. I’m glad we were able to be there to offer support to the lady when she needed us.
Lunchtime – solving a medication problem
It’s 1pm and I’m off to visit another lady who had been experiencing some issues with her medication. As English wasn’t her first language, there had been some difficulties over the phone, so it was important for me to meet her in person to support her. Despite the language barrier, she’s always happy to see me and her young daughter helps with the translation when it’s needed. I rang up Emma from our Community Nurse Specialist team to check what medication she needed to be taking and the problem was soon resolved.
When we’re not providing care in people’s homes, we’re based in the office, which is our own homes now – and has been for the past 18 months since the pandemic first started. At 3pm I return ‘home’ to make support telephone calls to patients on my case load. One of them also has queries regarding their medication and another has a request for some equipment, so I contact the relevant people at Ashgate and provide our patients with the support they need.
Afternoon – as the day comes to a close
My day ends around 4.45pm after ensuring I’ve documented all the visits in my day, made the phone calls I need to make before checking what my proposed plans are for the next days; knowing that these could well change at any moment. There’s no such thing as a typical day in the life of a Palliative Care Nurse, every day is different but that’s what I love about working for Ashgate. Finishing work knowing I’ve been able to make a positive impact on people’s lives – no matter how big or small that difference is – means everything to me. I wouldn’t have it any other way!