For Rhian, one of our learning disability nurses, no shift is ever the same which is due to the nature of the care and the varying conditions the children have. One of the things that makes working at Helen & Douglas House so special is that Rhian and the rest of the care team are able to provide long term one-on-one care and develop relationships with the families to help with on-going care and support.
Rhian's passion for palliative care
Rhian first became aware of the work of Helen & Douglas House whilst working as a support worker for children with disabilities at after-school and holiday clubs. After working there, she decided to train as a nurse at Oxford Brookes and once qualified (in 2012) started working at a respite centre in Oxford for children with profound and multiple disabilities. This gave her an understanding of the care required for those children living with long term illnesses and through working them, also learnt more about Helen & Douglas House from the families who come here.
‘Before I worked here I had heard good stories from the families who have been to the hospice. I then came for a visit myself and was blown away by the atmosphere; the staff were lovely, there was just a joy in the building and most importantly, the person I had come to visit was so happy’.
Providing on-going care and support at the hospice
After a few years, in 2015, Rhian came to work with us and since then has developed her nursing skills within paediatric palliative care, learnt more about working at the hospice and met and cared for some of our wonderful children and families.
She told us that as relationships develop, she gets to know the families and the complex conditions they are living with. She even said that ‘some of the stories of the children who come here really get to her emotionally’, such as a child who was perfectly well up until a certain moment in his life and a short illness meant that everything changed for him, and therefore his family. Because of this, the one-on-one care and respite we are able to provide quickly becomes important to the children and makes their shorter lives even more special.
Despite the benefit of seeing the impact of developing care, some days can also be hard because a family may be dealing with the loss of a child. This takes a different type of nursing and level of support and the team will ensure that a child who has passed is laid to rest in a calm place where the family can spend time with them. Even when a child is no longer with us, they still hold special memories with the team at the hospice. Despite these times, most days are not full of sadness and some of the children who come for respite care have been coming here with their family for many years and they bring happiness, smiles and their wonderful characters, even if they are unwell.
Whilst Rhian helps to provide care at the hospice, we are also able to provide care at home for some children and families which is delivered by our Community Nursing team. They ensure that families who prefer to stay at home are equally cared for.
Rhian's favourite moments
Rhian told us that one of her favourite things about working at Helen & Douglas House is that no two days are ever the same. Whilst they have a fairly standard routine for a normal shift, there isn’t really a typical day of nursing and outside of the traditional care, the nursing team get many opportunities to be involved with other types of respite at the hospice, some of it a bit more unusual.
‘There are some moments where I have to think to myself am I working right now? I may be holding a baby hedgehog, setting up a silly string trap for a prank or even putting together an art exhibition of hands and feet paintings. It is very special and unique’.
Rhian also told us that one of the benefits of working here is that, outside of the care routine, she is given freedom and fluidity to be able to to offer play anytime and anywhere, going wherever the child’s imagination takes them. One of the many reasons working here is different from other care providers.
Aside from working with the children, Rhian also enjoys working with a varied team of nurses from different backgrounds including those who have trained in either paediatrics, adult care and or, like her, as learning disability nurses. They all bring in different skills which complement the complete care that hospice provides. At home, Rhian enjoys spending time with her family, two children and walking her golden doodle dog, Taff, and said, ‘after a busy shift it is nice to go home and clear your head on a long dog walk’.
Rhian’s experience as a nurse shows the importance of the type of care we continue to provide and reminds us that should anyone need Helen & Douglas House at a point in their lives, the care will be special and unique. Our holistic hospice care offers respite and support for the whole family including parents and siblings which is why every donation is important for us to be able to continue to provide the care we do. Your donations do not only mean a lot to the children and their families, but also to the staff who work here.
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A typical nursing routine at Helen & Douglas House
Start of early shift; handover, children wake up, breakfast, medication and staff allocated.
In-house school or music session, trip out or arts and crafts.
Jaffa cake break; time for staff and families to have 5 minutes rest and catch up after some of the children have left or may be napping etc.
Outside visitors come in such as the PAT cat Leo or visiting exotic animals from Amata Animalia.
Lunch together with children, families and staff (there is often food involved here!).
Start of the late shift; handover from the morning.
Greet new respite arrivals and their families who usually come in straight from school with tea and biscuits. This gives us the team chance to do the check-in care plan paperwork and is chance to see how the families are doing.
Dinner time; time for everyone to eat together, the children, the families and hospice staff. This is Rhian’s favourite time of the day as she see’s different families get together to start friendships and offer comfort and advice and even discuss different ideas or places they can go with suitable facilities.
Bath and bedtime with the children who all have different routines - the care team work and help each other.
Another round of medications to be checked and administered.
Many people might think the hospice goes quiet for 12 hours overnight, but there are often night time checks or other unexpected things might happen. At any time a local child and their family could be admitted either as an emergency, for end-of-life care – then the team must ensure the child and family has support, both physically and mentally.