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“I love having the opportunity to make a difference to people’s lives – it really is a privilege.”
Lydia Williams is one of the community Specialist Palliative Care Nurses at Ashgate Hospice and has been caring for patients and their families in their homes for almost 14 years now.
From working with other hospice teams to ensure patients are comfortable to prescribing the correct medication so their symptoms are under control – Lydia provides complex care to people who are nearing the final months, weeks and days of their life.
She experiences a mixture of emotions in her job as a hospice nurse but enjoys making the journeys of patients and their families as easy as possible.
“The best thing about working at the hospice is working with patients and families – it is a privilege to go into someone’s home and get to know them and their family,” says Lydia.
“It’s different from being in a clinical setting; you can see how people are living their lives and you get a real feel of what’s important to each individual. Every patient we support is unique, it is about them as a whole and what means most to them.
“People think that dying and preparing for death is sad but there is often a lot of humour, love and warmth. You have difficult conversations but there is an openness which can be really moving.
“Of course, it can be very challenging at times too. There are lots of sad and painful moments and you feel for patients and families who are experiencing such heartbreak.
“Working in their homes, you’re more aware of the emotions patients and families are going through. You can almost absorb the emotions physically and sometimes the conversation sticks in your mind and sit with you for many years – it can be very emotional.
“That’s why we do what we do – to try and make the lives and journeys of the patients and families we’re caring for that little bit easier for them.”
Prior to joining the hospice, Lydia worked as a nurse in respiratory acute medicine for a decade at the hospital she first trained at.
Despite enjoying the experience of working for a hospital, she believes she has found her calling at Ashgate – and enjoys the opportunity to provide tailored care to each patient.
She adds: “I’m immensely proud to work for Ashgate and I’m proud to tell people where I work when they ask me; the hospice is such a well-loved and supported charity within our community.
“When I first came here 13 years ago, it was a much smaller organisation. We’ve expanded our services and our Inpatient Unit has developed so much – some of the rooms look like hotel rooms!
“We, as nurses, have developed so we can continue supporting the needs of our patients in the best possible way.
“Ashgate is a place where you can provide very personal patient and family care. I’ve enjoyed every aspect of my nursing career, but I think I’ve found the place – this is where I’m supposed to be and it’s what I really enjoy.
“Everyone at Ashgate has got the same aim because we’re very passionate about offering the very best level of care to patients, as well as their loved ones and friends.
“Each day I’m still learning and being challenged. I’m learning new ways of managing symptom control and drugs for patients but also learning from my colleagues. We have a whole range of nurses with different backgrounds who come with so much knowledge.
“It’s a place where you can give really good patient and family care, but also to continue to learn, develop and share a lot of knowledge and skills.”
Lydia is passionate about doing everything she can to go above and beyond to ensure patients’ final wishes are fulfilled before they die.
Lydia says the littlest of things can make big differences to the patients and families she and her colleagues supports.
She says: “When people get a life-limiting diagnosis they don’t often have big bucket lists and their requests can be quite simple.
“For example, they’d like to see their grandchildren start school, go the Peak District and take in the beautiful views, have fish and chips at the seaside or simply just spending time in the garden.
“As nurses, it’s so important that we do what we can so people can fulfil those wishes. People think you have to have this big grand bucket list but often it’s the littlest of things that make a huge difference.”