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Help us fund a nurse for a year

In honour of International Nurses Day on 12th May, we’re hosting an exclusive first look at our Summer Collection from Sunday 12th – Saturday 18th May at our Helen & Douglas House charity shops! 

Money raised in our charity shops this week could help fund a nurse for a year. Our nurses provide vital care and support to local terminally ill children and their families. Read Ellen’s story below.

Helen & Douglas House outreach nurse Becky with Anthony_1000x550

Meet Ellen

Ellen is one of our incredible Helen & Douglas House nurses. We met with Ellen to find out more about her role, the impact she has on the children we care for, and some of the special moments she has had when caring for terminally ill children.

Helen & Douglas House outreach nurse Becky with Anthony_1000x550

Life as a Nurse at Helen & Douglas House

It’s hard to believe it’s been 18 months since I joined the remarkable team at Helen & Douglas House. Before finding my place here, I was working at the JR in the Paediatric Emergency Department. At Helen & Douglas House, I have time to truly get to know each child as an individual. Unlike my previous role, which often focused on acute illnesses and quick fixes, here, I have the privilege of prioritising comfort and building meaningful connections with my patients.

It’s a place where I can be myself, applying my core values of kindness and empathy without the pressures of highly stressful situations. Working at Helen & Douglas House opened my eyes to the love families have for their children, no matter what their condition or disability, and I feel this aspect truly changed the way I view the world and my life.

Variety of work

The best part about my job is the variety of work. One day I will be having parties with children and their families with visits from animals and the next, I could be caring for a child at the very end of their life. I have learnt so many invaluable skills since joining the team including practical nursing and communication around end-of-life skills.

josh with his mum at HDH_1500x1000

Humbling moments

While it’s difficult to pinpoint a single best moment at the hospice, I have been incredibly lucky to nurse children at the end of their lives and have been there when they have passed away.

Two deaths stick out so strongly to me as they were both beautiful and peaceful, and exactly what the families had wanted. It will always be a privilege to spend this precious time with these children and their families, and knowing you gave the families the best possible experience is very humbling.

On the other hand, I enjoy Wednesday music sessions where all the children get together and sing with a volunteer pianist. It fills the hospice with a lot of joy.

Chris hiking up a mountain in the snow

A typical day

When I am not in charge of the team on shift

A typical day at Helen & Douglas House is anything but typical. I will be allocated a child which could range anything from a child in for a supportive respite stay, a child who is unwell and in for symptom management or a child who is at the end of their life.

Families can use our Little Room, which is a temperature cooled room where children can stay up to for five days after they have passed away. I have cared for many children and their families in this situation too.

My role is to provide individualised care for a specific child, maintaining their regular routines within the hospice environment. The children we care for are vulnerable with complex health needs so you never know what symptoms they may experience on your shift. You have to be prepared for any outcome.

You plan and allow your child to explore the facilities at Helen & Douglas House while ensuring all their needs are met. We regularly organise trips out of the hospice, such as visits to the local park or shops, providing opportunities for fresh air and social interaction within a supportive group setting.

When I am managing the clinical team on duty

As a band 6 nurse, I am regularly in charge of the clinical team on duty that day or night. I thoroughly enjoy this as it gives me opportunity to support all staff with the children they are caring for and I am the first point of contact for any issues that may arise. This also includes children who need care at home or are being cared for in a local hospital.

We are on call 24/7, where our families can phone in and ask for advice on anything for their child’s needs. This can result in a requirement to liaise with the multidisciplinary team both within Helen & Douglas House and outside and together give help to the family.

Supporting Nathan and his family

Nathan was born with Prader-Willi syndrome, which was diagnosed shortly after birth. It causes multiple medical conditions and complications which means he requires 24/7 care.

Nathan was first referred to Helen & Douglas House by his community nurse who noticed that his Mum Jenny, who was his full time carer, was struggling. As Nathan was getting older and more conditions were being diagnosed, it was becoming harder for her to cope without some respite. So in 2013 they came for their first visit. At first she was a little nervous about leaving him at the hospice, but they have now been coming regularly every year since and rely on the care we provide. 

Jenny, Nathan’s Mum said:

‘When Nathan fell extremely ill in June 2023 the first call I made was to Helen & Douglas House. The nurses were there from day one. Explaining things when I couldn’t understand, for a hug when we were low, for pain management after his long stay in intensive care and reassurance when we had to make hard decisions. We planned discharge to Helen & Douglas House so I could rest and get ready for the long road ahead. From food packages to a shoulder to cry on, the nurses were there every step of the way. I couldn’t have done it without them.’

Chris hiking up a mountain in the snow

Ellen said:

‘After we heard Nathan was so unwell in Intensive Care, it really put into perspective for all of the care team just how vulnerable the children we care for are. Over the last 8 months, seeing Nathan gain his strength and abilities back has been a joy and it has been so lovely to see his kind and cheeky manner has not changed since being poorly. Caring for Nathan remains incredibly fun and days with him at Helen & Douglas House reinforce just how lucky you are to work in such a place. Supporting his parents through the toughest time of their lives has been the upmost privilege, and I’m so pleased how much they trust us with their beloved son.’

Thank you

We would like to thank all our incredible nurses and nursing associates at Helen & Douglas House. Their remarkable dedication, commitment and passion for caring and supporting local terminally ill children are nothing short of heroic.