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Ashgate Hospice > The experiences of a student nurse on placement at a hospice

Meet Amy Vardy, a fourth year nursing student at the University of Derby, whose journey into palliative care began during a placement at Ashgate Hospice earlier this year.

Amy’s passion for palliative care was sparked during her time as a pharmacy dispenser in a hospital, where her interest in chemotherapy medications sparked a deeper curiosity about end of life care.

Amy hopes her experience at Ashgate will help her in her journey to becoming a palliative and end of life care nurse.

After completing a four-week placement alongside the hospice’s Virtual Ward team, she tells us what it’s been like helping the team provide compassionate care to patients and families.

What made you want to go on placement at Ashgate Hospice?

I was allocated Ashgate Hospice as part of my practical placement block at university. I used to say to myself, “I’d love a placement there,” and then it actually ended up happening! Before studying, I was a pharmacy dispenser in a hospital. Due to the environment, there were a variety of medications, and I always took a keen interest in the chemotherapy ones. I think this is where my interest in palliative care and cancer became apparent, so I was excited to work with the team at Ashgate to learn more about what palliative and end of life entails.

How long were you with the hospice and what did you get up to?

I was at the hospice for four weeks during my placement. I was allocated to the Virtual Ward with specialist nurses Sophie and Amanda. During my time at Ashgate, I attended meetings to see how the interprofessional teams work together to manage patients, went on visits to patients’ homes, participated in telephone assessments, had an insight into other roles within the hospice such as social workers, doctors, supportive care team, as well as on the Inpatient Unit. I’ve been able to support patients and relatives, document patient records under supervision, administer certain medications with support and supervision from a trained nurse, and much more!

What is it about hospice and palliative care that makes you so passionate about it?

I feel that a person’s final stages should be calm and peaceful for them, and for the benefit of their family and loved ones too. Being able to contribute to that at such a difficult time in people’s lives provides me with such gratitude and comfort. I like to think: how would I expect my family to be cared for if they were unwell? I feel that it’s important to have this attitude with every patient I care for. I have enjoyed being able to build relationships with families and relatives and be involved at various aspects of care whether that be physically or emotionally.

What have you enjoyed most about being at Ashgate and what have you learned from your experience that you will take away with you?

I enjoyed home visits with the Virtual Ward team as I felt I could play an active role in supporting decisions and providing safe, effective care to people. Sophie and Amanda were encouraging of me learning new skills and knowledge and it made me more eager to learn. I discovered that nursing is not just about providing physical care, but emotional and mental support is equally as important too. I have also realised that the specialist nurses have a huge responsibility – this is somewhat daunting to me as a student, as a soon-to-be newly qualified nurse myself. This is why a good network of support around you is so important.

Do you foresee a career working in palliative care/at a hospice?

Everyone at Ashgate Hospice supports your learning and palliative care is and always will be an interest of mine. I’m not sure I’d feel ready to be part of the specialised area yet. I feel I need to gain experience in an acute setting first to enhance my practical, communication and decision-making skills before working at a hospice. I want to ensure I can work to the best of my ability as a newly qualified nurse before I branch off into areas like palliative care. I would, however, absolutely love to come back to Ashgate in the future as a registered nurse. The team is wonderfully supportive, and it is such a welcoming, warming place to work. I loved my experience over the four weeks.