Richard – community allotment volunteer
It was while working on his own allotment that Richard came across an ideal opportunity to volunteer for the Hospice. Last autumn the Hospice had acquired an overgrown allotment and was looking for someone to help bring it back to life. Having recently become ‘semi’ retired, the timing was perfect for Richard to become the Hospice’s first allotment volunteer.
“It just happened by chance,” says Richard. “I’ve now got more time to do different things. I knew about the Hospice because my mother-in-law passed away there 15 years ago, so it’s also a way I can give something back.”
Alongside his own allotment, Richard has been working on the Hospice’s allotment for two hours every Saturday, clearing it and getting it ready for planting. “I’ve had my allotment for many years,” he says, “and it’s really good for your mental health. I had a stressful job in the past and it’s been a great place to escape to.” The intention with the Hospice allotment is to make it a successful growing project with sessions for people with life-limiting conditions, those who are caring for them and people who have been recently bereaved to come together to support each other and share a love of gardening. Richard says: “They’ll be able to do as much or as little as they want – whether that’s chat, do some strenuous digging, some light weeding or pick and eat some of the produce.”
Richard has now been joined by two other allotment volunteers. “It’s very rewarding,” he says, “and it’s enjoyable meeting new people.” He would certainly recommend the role: “If you’ve got the time, it’s a way you can give something back while doing something a bit different too.”
Becca – night nurse
“I see the relief on people’s faces when we arrive”
Becca, a former intensive care nurse, is now a night nurse for Princess Alice Hospice. Her job is intense, demanding and very rewarding.
The night nurses provide much more than medical care. Night-time can be frightening when someone is nearing the end of life. Nurses like Becca can make it a little easier, by settling the patient and just being there when needed. That might mean giving them medication, changing a dressing or reassuring them about a symptom that’s worrying them. Or sometimes just sitting with them, so they know they’re not alone. In many cases, they’re granting a patient’s dearest wish – to spend their final hours in the comforting, familiar surroundings of their own home. One such patient was Karen.
“I came to Karen’s home one evening and had the privilege of making her final night a little easier. She was only about my age and her grief-stricken partner was struggling to take it all in. Her mother was suffering in the way that only a mum losing her child can – but got into Karen’s bed and simply held her. It was heartbreaking. Karen’s sister was there too, and a couple of close friends. Because I was able to give her care at home, Karen was surrounded by warmth, love and laughter as her life drew to a close. In the early hours, I left the room to give Karen’s nearest and dearest some time alone with her. Not long after, her little boy came and joined me. He was only seven or eight and reminded me of my own son – so I chatted to him about ordinary things. It would have been so much more difficult for the family if Karen had been in hospital. But instead of those clinical sounds and smells, she ended her days in the heart of her home. It normalised things for her young son too, giving Karen peace of mind.
I was so glad that Karen had support when she needed it, until the end. Usually, I manage to fight back the tears, but once my shift was over, I wept as I thought of the mother, partner and son Karen had left behind.”
Becca is passionate about her job, but it can be lonely and exhausting. “The area where we work is very wide and some of our patients live in really rural locations, where the street lights go out at midnight. It’s not unusual to find yourself stumbling around in the dark with a torch, looking for the right house!”
“I take some of the burden away from relatives too”
Caring for someone is physically and emotionally draining. I might give them a much-needed rest, or simply a chance to talk openly. And if the patient dies, I’ll support the family through that difficult time too.”
Night nurses play an important part in the wider team caring for the patient. They work together to solve problems and provide free, joined-up care around the clock.
Lizzie – volunteer
Lizzie has a career that keeps her very busy, so she helps out at the Hospice on an occasional basis, filling in gaps wherever she can. One day she wouldn’t miss, however, is Christmas Day, which she has spent volunteering in the Hospice coffee shop every year bar two in last ten years. “It’s such a lovely day,” she says, “it’s like being part of one big family. And the Christmas dinner is amazing!”
She first came across the Hospice in 2002, when her father was cared for there, but it was several years later before she decided to volunteer. She started volunteering in the coffee shop but has also worked on reception as well as in the wards. Lizzie is the founder of the events and PR company Halls and Halls, so her time is limited. “I can’t commit to regular volunteering,” she says, “like being a driver for instance, but I like doing the filling-in roles.” It’s a very different world too: “I work in a really pressurised industry, whereas here it’s all about the people. No one ever says no to anyone, it’s a very kind environment.”
Christmas Day at the Hospice is particularly special, but also on a personal level for Lizzie. “My dad’s name is in the book of remembrance and we hang a dedication to him on the Christmas tree,” she says. “There is a gentleman who comes in every year for a cup of tea before his Christmas dinner – it’s become a tradition – both his parents were cared for at the Hospice and then one year he came in with his girlfriend, then a few years later, he appeared with his twins. We’re all part of a journey.”
How busy it is on Christmas Day depends on whether many of the patients have been well enough to go home. Either way, Lizzie stays for the day, only returning to her family in the late afternoon. “I feel very special,” she says “my family are so supportive. It’s very grounding working here and you value your family more. You’re much more thankful. Life is about building memories and being kind.”
During the year, Lizzie meets relatives and also patients, particularly when she is volunteering on the wards. “I love interacting with the patients,” she says. “One lady said all she wanted was a gin and tonic, which I got for her. I’ve never experienced such a rewarding feeling in my life. To see her face, and her family’s face (they didn’t know she could have one). She held on so tight to that glass! It was so wonderful to be able to do that one thing for her.”
Lizzie also appreciates how hard it can be to be a relative coming into the Hospice. “I listen to their story,” she says. “Just taking five minutes out of your day to ask ‘how are you doing?’ is important. I hope I give some value back, some normality in their day.”
Would Lizzie recommend volunteering at the Hospice? “One hundred per cent!” she says. “I feel valued, informed and part of a community. If you want to give something back, do it for something as amazing as the Hospice. It’s not a morbid or sad place as some people might think. It’s about making memories for people and ensuring they have a good end-of-life. There are so many different roles and the Hospice couldn’t run without its volunteers.”
Megan Andrews – Charityworks graduate trainee
A graduate with a keen ambition to work in the charity sector has for the past year been laying the foundations of her future at Princess Alice Hospice.
Thanks to the Charityworks graduate scheme – a national programme run in collaboration with a host of charities – Megan Andrews is now set for the next steps on her career path, which she hopes will culminate in a role in international development.
Across the UK, 120 Charityworks graduate trainees annually deliver a full-time job in a partner charity or housing association, and take part in a leadership programme which introduces them to what they need to work and lead in the non-profit sector.
Megan has just completed her Charityworks placement year and has gained a host of experiences and skills during that time.
She hails from Weymouth, studied English at Southampton, and graduated in 2016.
She enjoyed volunteering and for a while coordinated a volunteering project in a care home specialising in dementia care; she also became involved in a student nighttime welfare project and fundraising door-to-door for St John Ambulance.
Having also enjoyed a period volunteering in Nepal with Voluntary Service Overseas, she was fired up with an ambition to work in international development – specifically in social change.
But she almost missed the boat at the outset – by discovering the Charityworks scheme just three hours before the annual deadline for applicants.
Her last-minute effort paid off and she passed all the stages to reach the final 120 out of an original 5,500 would-be trainees.
“The selection process is rigorous,” she said. “There are online sections to complete, and a psychometric test as well as interview.” This is followed by an unsettling wait until placements are made in the August.
Megan’s placement has been as an Executive Assistant in Community Engagement, and while she admits Princess Alice Hospice was not on her radar until she was given options to choose from, she chose the placement because it offered breadth of experience. She looks back on her year here as “a privilege”.
As the Charityworks trainees build experience of the sector and gain an understanding of the key issues, they have access to a national network dedicated to making a difference.
They work with a programme team with years of experience in people development, and have access to an external mentor to help them make the most of the year.
Megan’s mentor has been Ellie, who works for Amnesty International in international development for humanitarian charities – delivering campaigns.
“Her advice and support has been invaluable,” said Megan.
Once a month Megan meets up with fellow trainees and leaders across the sector to explore and debate the key issues affecting their work and society as a whole.
The graduate trainees also produce their own research, helping to raise their profile and develop an understanding of their environment.
Megan’s research has involved community engagement – specifically about carers and how they can be supported.
Her work involving data analysis, focus groups and related literature has paid dividends as the model she created is now being taken up as part of the Hospice’s operations. Another research theme will be how charities of similar size can use programme boards.
“The research work was very meaningful – I feel lucky to have had the opportunity and am very grateful,” she said.
She has also had the chance to work across the organisation; helping with programme boards, helping to write a funding bid, research for different departments.
“The Charityworks scheme has certainly lived up to expectations,” she said. “I feel I’ve really ‘lucked out’ by having the opportunity to work at Princess Alice Hospice.”
Recognising she will need a Masters degree at some point, Megan has decided to stay at Princess Alice on contract for a further year before she strikes out again – maybe undertaking more work for VSO, tackling her Masters or heading into Central London for her next charity job. Megan has undertaken PRINCE2 project management training and has been appointed the Hospice’s Projects Development Officer.
Deputy Director, Community Engagement, Zoe Byrne, said: “Megan has been such an asset to the organisation; her enthusiasm, drive, organisational skills and initiative have supported the Deputy Directors enormously in researching and developing ideas within their respective areas.
“Her impact report on how we can better support our carers was excellent and has shaped the families and carers work within Community Engagement and she continues to be involved in this work.
“It has been fantastic to have Megan within the organisation and I am so pleased that she is staying with us for a further year.”
“As well as all this she has found time to help out at Dovetail – our bereavement group for children. Good humoured, friendly, enthusiastic and totally dedicated to the Princess Alice Hospice cause.”
Natalie Wiltshire-Grundy – Volunteer
From shop Volunteer to Sales Assistant
Living in Twickenham, Natalie has always been aware of the Hospice’s role in the community but when the local shop moved to bigger premises, she says: “It looked so beautiful. I’d always been interested in volunteering and I fancied working there.” As both a volunteer and now a staff member at the shop, she’s a proud part of a team that ensures the shop is always looking its best: “If there’s even a hanger hanging the wrong way round, we’re on to it!”
Now in her early 40s, Natalie spent 20 years commuting into the City, before stopping work to spend time with her younger son before he started school. She began volunteering at the shop in 2016, for one morning each week, while also managing her own freelance legal pa company. “My career has been very office based,” she explains, “so I’ve loved being out and about with the public. I’m a sociable person and this gives me my ‘fix’!”
As a volunteer, Natalie worked on the till, as well as keeping the displays looking good and sorting through the jewellery and bric-a-brac. A favourite part of the role for Natalie is talking with the customers, donors and fellow volunteers and staff in the shop. “There are volunteers who’ve been here for 20 years,” she says. “It’s amazing how they’ve dedicated their time to the charity, and they are such lovely people.” Many of the customers have personal connections with the Hospice and hearing their stories and how highly they value the Hospice’s services clearly motivates Natalie. “The more positive feedback you hear from them,” she says, “the more proud I feel working for the Hospice.”
Recently Natalie chose to take on a part-time employed role as a Sales Assistant, working three days per week. She explains: “With my freelance business I could work my own hours but I was actually looking for more routine. I’d been made to feel so incredibly welcome as a volunteer and it’s such a lovely shop, so when the vacancy came up, I didn’t want the opportunity to pass me by.”
One of her main responsibilities is to take in and sort through all the very many donations they receive. “That can be a little overwhelming sometimes but we receive some amazing items,” she says. “We make sure we’ve always got beautiful things on display – we have themed displays, for example for the royal wedding and Father’s Day – and that the shop is kept neat and tidy.”
It’s clear that Natalie loves working at the shop – so much so that she’s persuaded several of her friends to start volunteering there too. “I feel very lucky to work here with such an amazing team” she says.
Maureen Thomas – shop volunteer
From charity shopper to volunteer
Maureen, 67, describes herself as a ‘charity shopper’ and she has been supporting her local Hospice shop in Egham for many years. Now she’s standing on the other side of the till as a volunteer and is loving it just as much.
Maureen had been considering volunteering for some time and started at the shop shortly after retiring two years ago. She says: “It was the shop or nothing. I don’t drive and this is only a 20-minute walk away.” She spends an afternoon there each week, more if needed, mostly working on the tills but also putting clothes out. “I’m a social person, a bit of a chatterbox,” she says, “so I enjoy meeting the customers.”
Although Maureen has no personal connection with the work of the Hospice, her brother was in a hospice in Toronto, Canada. “I know they do a fantastic job,” she says. “And it does make me feel good to volunteer. It’s a very happy shop and great fun. I could write a book about the shop – the regulars, the camaraderie among the staff and volunteers and the loveliness of the manager! If anyone is thinking about volunteering and has a spare couple of hours, I’d say just do it!”
Maureen gave her time recently in a different way when she was emailed asking if she could help support the Hospice stand at her local fete. “It was a very interesting experience,” she says. “We were inviting people to write on a card things they wanted to do before they die and pin it on a board. Some people scurried past and others chatted but didn’t fill out a card. I spoke with one family and the children, whose grandad had passed away in a hospice, all filled out cards. I’m exceedingly glad I volunteered there.”
Alison Edwards – Volunteer
“I love every minute of volunteering!”
Ask Alison about her volunteering work for Princess Alice Hospice over the past three years and she has to think for a moment. She has done so much for us, it’s quite a long list. “At first I helped at events like the London Marathon, manning the Cheer Station and meeting and greeting the runners. Then I started to help out the Fundraising team in the office, doing research, stock taking and general admin.”
As time went on, Alison got more involved. “I’m now the local coordinator for Staines and Egham which means I distribute collection tins and leaflets to shops, pubs, cafes and clubs. And because of my teaching background, I was asked to become an Ambassador for Princess Alice. I give talks to organisations and clubs mainly. Recently I spoke at a golf club dinner telling the members how the money they’d raised for us is spent.”
“We got amazing care – it was a weight lifted off my shoulders.”
Like many volunteers, Alison wanted to give something back for the care her husband, Les, received from Princess Alice. “Les wanted to stay at home so we had a home nurse and an occupational therapist who were brilliant. But when he got more poorly, he had to go into the Hospice for two weeks. The care was amazing – they looked after me, my kids, the whole family.”
“Towards the end Les made it clear he wanted to be at home. So they moved heaven and earth to make it happen. Equipment arrived, we had round the clock care and Steve, the Hospice chaplain, arranged for a Roman Catholic priest to visit. And when Les died, Steve led the funeral service, making it inclusive for everybody just as he had wanted.”
“I’ve made lots of friends.”
Alison enjoys the works she does for us. And there’s been another benefit. “I meet lots of new people. In fact, I met my two best friends through volunteering. It’s been a win-win situation for me.”
All volunteers at Princess Alice are trained and supported in the work they do. “There is generic training about working for the Hospice but also specific training for your role. I’ve always felt respected and valued for what I do.”
“I’ve even got my dog, Millie, to volunteer!”
Volunteering has changed Alison’s life. She’s been given new opportunities and the chance to meet new people. She would recommend volunteering for Princess Alice to anyone. “It’s so rewarding and whatever your skills, there’ll be a role for you.”
Alison is such a great ambassador for us that she’s even roped her family in to help. “My daughter ran the Marathon for Princess Alice. And even my dog, Millie, has got involved. Every other Tuesday she comes to the Hospice with me to work as a Pets As Therapy (PAT) dog. She loves meeting the patients and families and being made a fuss of.”
Tim Iredale – Senior Partnerships Fundraiser
“I love working here. The days fly by.”
Tim used to work for a recruitment agency – until he found himself another job at Princess Alice! “I’d come across vacancies in Fundraising and I’d think ‘that job sounds a lot more interesting than mine!” he says, “so one day I decided to test the water by volunteering. I was lucky enough to get a placement in the Communications team at Princess Alice. Then, after a while, I was offered a job in the Fundraising team.”
It was a tough decision to make but Tim has never regretted it. “I went with my heart,” he says, “and I’ve loved it. It’s really interesting and challenging.” And, of course, there’s the satisfaction of knowing he’s making a difference. “When I worked in recruitment I always used to almost apologise for my job. Now I’m proud to say I’m a fundraiser.”
“The variety in this job is great. Who knows what I’ll be doing?”
Tim’s role involves managing relationships with community and corporate partners and organising fundraising events. No two days are the same and he loves that. “I could be talking to someone on the phone who’s climbing a mountain for us, delivering stuff in the van to various events or dressing up as Alice Bear, the Hospice mascot!”
One of his proudest achievements has been organising the annual Santa Fun Run. “It was the first event I’d ever organised. I had to sort out all the logistics, liaise with Royal Parks, source hundreds of Santa suits and then turn up and manage things on the day. But it all went well. And the next year was even better. I love attending the events. I really enjoy manning one of the ‘cheer stations’ at the London Marathon – it’s my way of supporting all these amazing people who raise money for us.”
“They try to nurture your interests.”
One thing Tim has really appreciated is that at Princess Alice everyone is encouraged to develop their skills and follow their interests. “They know that I like writing and creative stuff so they got me involved in developing our new website alongside people from other departments. They said, ‘We’d really like to use your brilliant way with words.’ So that was nice!”
“I love my team – I consider them really good friends.”
Princess Alice Hospice is no ordinary working environment. Tim noticed the difference right away. “I’ve had jobs where I’ve trudged to work thinking ‘I don’t want to be here.’ But at Princess Alice, there’s a genuine sense of warmth – like a family. I live in London so I have quite a commute but I love it here. People I don’t even know will stop and chat.” And, of course, there’s the added bonus that everyone at Princess Alice enjoys. “I get the satisfaction of going home at the end of the day knowing that I’ve done something good.”
Serena Shakshir – Volunteer
“It’s the most life affirming thing you can do.”
In year 13 at school and with A levels to study for, Serena didn’t have a lot of time to spare. But as she was hoping to study medicine, she was really keen to get some experience caring for people. So she was delighted to be offered the opportunity to volunteer for four hours a week at Princess Alice Hospice.
“I worked as a ward support volunteer. So I’d do things like restocking the ward supply cupboards and the patients’ personal cupboards,’ says Serena. “Then at dinner time I’d help deliver the food. It was very rewarding because the patients really appreciated it.”
“I think the key thing is to have valuable time with people.”
As time went on, Selena was allowed to help with basic patient care, helping them use the toilet, making sure they were comfortable in bed and doing mouth care for them. She really enjoyed this one to one contact with the patients.
“They love to reminisce and share their wisdom with me. Being with people at their most vulnerable was a privilege. Once I spent three hours of my shift just sitting with a lady because she was feeling sad. I gave her a hand massage and it really seemed to calm her down.”
“It confirmed my career choice so it was a very positive experience.”
Working at the Hospice confirmed Serena’s choice to go into medicine. “I surprised myself how strong I was. Now, knowing that I can cope with it, I feel a duty to do it.”
It has also helped her secure a place at medical school. “Being able to talk about my experience at the interview helped. I was able to demonstrate how I’ve grown.”
Serena also liked the fact that she has come out of her experience with something to show for it. “As part of my placement, I had to fill in a workbook which recorded all the things I’d done. At the end I was awarded a care certificate qualification which is amazing.”
“Whatever you do will help people. Just go in there and do what you can.”
Work experience at the Hospice isn’t just for people thinking about careers in medicine. It can benefit anyone. Serena’s advice? “Having the chance to help people is very special. So don’t be scared. You never have to do anything you don’t want to do. It made me a more caring person, a better person.”
Keith Sturge – DHL
“We like working for a company that cares”
International courier company DHL deliver items all over the world. But they also deliver much needed support to Princess Alice Hospice. Keith Sturge from DHL’s office in Slough explains how the company first got involved, “The husband of a colleague had been cared for at Princess Alice Hospice. One day I went to the Hospice with her to see his name in the book of remembrance. Our involvement with the Hospice really started from there.”
“Because we go to the Hospice, we can see where our money is going”
Every September around 25 employees of DHL celebrate Global Volunteer Day by giving up a day to work for PAH. They’re put to work painting garden furniture, mending fences, delivering leaflets and helping out with admin. “We get a lot out of volunteering,” he says, “It’s so rewarding – it adds to our sense of wellbeing.”
Being at the Hospice also made Keith and his colleagues realise just how badly their support is needed. “When we realised how much it costs to run a hospice, it spurred us on”, Keith says. Over time DHL’s support for the Hospice has grown so that as well as volunteering for us, they have become some of our most enthusiastic fundraisers.
“You’d be surprised how much it contributes to team work”
The company runs events all year round to raise money for the Hospice. The charity car wash day alone raised a fantastic £1,200. There are also book sales, raffles and collections throughout the year and one brave lady took part in the Santa Fun Run. “Fundraising is good for getting us together as a team and doing something different,” says Keith, “It’s a real bonding experience.”
What’s really great is that the company fully supports everything their employees do for the Hospice. DHL provide a Match It! programme which enables the Hospice to receive further funds in recognition of DHL employee volunteering and fundraising activities. Fortunately for us, DHL are keen to keep up their relationship with the Hospice. “We have personal attachments to PAH,” says Keith, “It’s close to our hearts.”
“Take a brave step and go there”
Keith doesn’t hesitate to recommend working with Princess Alice Hospice to other local companies: “At some point in your life someone in your family, company or community may need help from the Hospice. It’s opened my eyes to what end of life care is and what we can all contribute. Plus it’s such a welcoming place to be – I find it a very calming experience and one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever done.”
Seeva Sawmynaden – Volunteer driver
“I feel like we’re doing a good thing”
After a long career in nursing, you’d think 72 year old Seeva would want to put his feet up. Not at all. Seeva is one of our highly dedicated and long-serving volunteers. Altogether, he has volunteered for us for an amazing 17 years, driving patients to the Hospice and helping out in the coffee shop.
“It’s nice for them to be out, even for just one day”
Volunteer drivers play a really important role. Many of our patients are elderly and unable to drive or use public transport. So drivers like Seeva pick them up from home and bring them to the day hospice to enjoy activities and some much-needed company. He understands how important this weekly outing is to many of his passengers, who spend most of their time alone. He even makes sure they enjoy the journey by chatting to them, or putting on the radio if they prefer.
“I enjoy the contact with people”
But what does Seeva get out of volunteering for the Hospice? Seeva strongly believes that it’s important to give back to his community. And he also feels a special connection to the Hospice who cared for his wife back in the late 1980s.
Now living alone, Seeva really enjoys his volunteering days. He is able to claim mileage for his driving, and his time is given very gladly. “I get something out of it,“ he says, “it gets me out of the house.”
“It’s like a family”
As well as meeting the patients, Seeva also enjoys being part of the Princess Alice Hospice team. He feels very valued and supported. “There’s always training available and we can get help and advice whenever we need it.”
Seeva really enjoys the social side too, getting to know other volunteers and staff. He even recruited an ex-colleague of his to join the driving team when she retired! And speaking of retirement, does he have any plans to take a well-earned rest? Absolutely not. “I intend to carry on volunteering indefinitely. I want to continue as long as I can.” We’re very glad to hear it.
Megan Andrews – Graduate executive assistant
“I really like doing meaningful work”
Megan fell in love with the charity sector while still at university. While studying for an English degree, she found time to volunteer as a coordinator on a project helping isolated elderly people. After graduating, she spent three months working as a volunteer in Nepal.
She was thrilled to be offered a job at Princess Alice Hospice: “I came here through CharityWorks, an organisation that matches graduates with employers from the not-for-profit sector.” As an executive assistant, she provides admin and research support for the Hospice’s five programme boards that implement major programmes such as Compassionate Communities. It’s exciting work that puts her at the heart of the Hospice’s plans for the future.
“I get to see elements of all the Hospice’s work”
As well as preparing documents and arranging meetings, Megan carries out research that informs the work of the programme boards. “Working with the Compassionate Communities programme board is really interesting – the Hospice is aiming to empower people in the community to reach out and help each other.”
As part of this, Megan has gained valuable research experience, looking into services available locally for frail people. “It’s very rewarding. I know my reports will make a difference.”
Like everyone in the Hospice, Megan has also been encouraged to learn about other aspects of the work. So far she has been lucky enough to shadow a nurse in the community and in the day hospice.
“There’s a culture that you can ask anyone anything”
Starting any job can be daunting but Megan soon felt at ease at the Hospice. “It’s overwhelmingly friendly. On my first day I went to lunch and sat on a table on my own. Straight away someone came over and invited me to join them. There was also a staff party in my first week so I got to know a lot of people through that.” Megan also really appreciated being able to get help whenever she needed it. “There’s an open door policy and a culture that you can ask anyone anything.”
“You’ll be stretched and you’ll learn a lot”
Would Megan recommend working at Princess Alice Hospice? Definitely. “It’s a great place to learn about healthcare and the not-for-profit sector. And it’s so inspiring to work with people who are really knowledgeable and committed to what they do. You’ll be encouraged to learn on the job and if you want to do internal or external courses, you’ll get plenty of opportunities.”
Martin Shine – Senior healthcare assistant
“Every day is a learning day because each patient is different”
Martin has been at the Hospice for six years now. He works on the inpatient unit, giving personal care to patients nearing the end of their lives. It’s very different from his previous job as a manager, but Martin has no regrets. “My happiness is more important than money“ he says, “I enjoy coming to work every day.”
As a care assistant, Martin has a lot of contact with the patients. He washes them, helps them eat and drink and talks to them. “You feel that you’ve achieved something. You’ve made sure that their last days are comfortable and pain free.” It’s a very special relationship and Martin feels privileged to be part of it. “There are special moments when they hold your hand or say thank you – and it’s a real thank you. I thank God I can do this job.”
“Sometimes it’s not about words – it’s just being there for them”
Does it take a special kind of person to do this job? “You have to care. That’s the most important thing. But you also need to be sensitive and intuitive – and a good communicator, because we spend a lot of time talking to patients.”
Martin feels especially privileged to be with a patient in their last moments. Some patients have no family and so a member of staff will sit with them as they pass away. “We talk to them and hold their hand so they know we’re there. And after they have passed, we go on caring for them, washing them, changing their nightgown and brushing their hair – it’s about giving them dignity and respect.”
“No matter who I work with, we’re all working to the same high standard”
Like many of the staff, Martin considers himself lucky to work at the Hospice. He really values being part of a team where everyone is dedicated to delivering high quality care. “We’re not miracle workers. But we treat each patient as an individual and give them great care tailored to their needs.”
Martin says he and his colleagues are well supported and trained for the job they do. “All healthcare assistants are mentored for the first three months and we all take a qualification to prove we have met the standard that’s expected. I’m a mentor myself and it’s really rewarding to help someone else on their journey to becoming an outstanding carer.”
Heather Phillips – Nurse
“There’s always something positive in every day”
Heather has spent most of her nursing career in palliative care. Why? “I like the fact that you have a relationship with your patients and you’re with them to the end.” Today, we’re lucky enough to have her working as a bank staff nurse in our inpatient unit. She loves her job, because she knows that she’s making a difference every single day.
“We all have the same goal – very good care”
One of the things Heather really enjoys is having the time and resources to care for the patient and their family. Much of her time on the IPU is spent helping to relieve and manage symptoms. Sometimes getting things under control can take a while, but it’s so satisfying when she succeeds in making a patient comfortable again.
Heather also works in the day hospice. “The patients love coming. They see their friends and it’s a really happy, positive atmosphere.”
“We look out for each other”
Heather really values being part of a team who care about and support each other. “It’s very friendly here,” she says, “and we’re really well supported with regular supervision and what we call ‘reflection’ sessions to talk things through. That’s so important in this job.”
But it’s not all about work. The Hospice is also a very sociable place where strong friendships are made. Staff from all departments enjoy getting together for quiz nights and the community choir. We also support staff by offering flexible, family-friendly working hours – which, as a busy mum, Heather really appreciates.
Care that goes beyond nursing
Our staff always go the extra mile. And Heather is no different. Last Valentine’s Day, one of her elderly patients on the ward mentioned that he was sorry he wouldn’t be able to give his neighbour a card as he normally did. Heather helped him buy a card from the Hospice shop and delivered it to the lady on her way home from work. Like much of what we do, it was a small thing but it meant so much.
Fiona Yard – Ward support volunteer
“I just wanted to give something back”
Fiona is a full time teacher. But every other Saturday you’ll find her serving tea, coffee and cake to patients on the inpatient unit of Princess Alice Hospice. Why does she choose to spend precious spare time working with us?
“My Grandad was supported by the Hospice. The nurses came to care for him at home and they were always very helpful to my family who took care of my Grandad. I just felt that I wanted to give something back to them.”
You just need to be calm and caring and have a good sense of humour
“Working on the In-Patient Unit is so different to my job and I wasn’t sure what to expect. But I wasn’t left on my own. I shadowed another lady for quite a while before doing the rounds on my own. Can anyone do it? I think you have to have initiative and be able to judge whether it’s ok to go into a room. You need to be calm and take everything in your stride. And it helps if you can make people laugh.”
Your visit can be the little pick-me-up that someone needs
Fiona has found working at the Hospice really rewarding. It’s a place where the smallest thing can make a big difference. So coming along with a cuppa and a friendly smile when someone’s feeling a bit down can really lift their mood. The patients appreciate the fact that, as a volunteer, she has chosen to be there because she cares.
And it’s not just the patients she helps. Often she’s welcome company for visitors when the patient is asleep or unresponsive. She even enjoys interacting with our canine visitors. “I love it when people bring dogs to visit – I’m a huge dog lover and it’s another way that I can connect with the patient and their visitors.”
Everyone can make a difference – so give it a go
“Working at the Hospice has definitely changed my perspective. I think it’s made me more grounded. I really enjoy the work and being part of the Hospice team – it’s like a little family. We support each other and if you ever feel the need to talk, someone will be there to listen.”
“If you have spare time and love working with people, you’ll find working at the Hospice really fulfilling. It’s great to go home knowing that you have lifted someone’s day with just a cup of tea, a slice of cake and a little chat.”
Twaisha Kapoor – Ward volunteer
Like most 17 year olds, Twaisha Kapoor, was hoping for a volunteering opportunity that would be useful and rewarding. In Princess Alice Hospice she found everything she was looking for – and more.
Twaisha is studying for her A-levels and hoping to study medicine. So she was keen to find out first-hand what it’s like to work in a medical environment. After her interview at the Hospice, she was delighted to be offered a role as a volunteer serving tea and coffee to patients on the inpatient unit.
“I like talking to people and making them feel better”
Twaisha really enjoys her time on the IPU. She’s always loved talking to people and volunteering at the Hospice has helped her develop her communication skills. Ward volunteers like Twaisha have the time to talk to patients and she never feels rushed or under pressure. And her age has been a definite plus, “Most patients are quite elderly and I think they like having someone young around.”
Twaisha’s time at the Hospice has made her even more certain that a career in medicine is for her. Inspired by our doctors and nurses, she’s thinking she might also like to specialise in palliative medicine.
“It definitely helped that I had first-hand experience in a care setting”
Competition for places at medical school is fierce. But Twaisha is lucky. She has just been offered a place in London. She believes that volunteering at the Hospice helped a lot. “Princess Alice Hospice is very well respected. The university trusted their opinion – if I was good enough for the Hospice, I was good enough for them.”
“You really feel you’re part of the team”
Doctors and nurses everywhere work in teams. And at the Hospice, Twaisha has seen for herself how important this is – and has loved being part of the team. “Right from the start, everyone was so welcoming. I felt accepted straight away,” she says, “And I got cards from everyone at Christmas!” Would she recommend volunteering at Princess Alice? Definitely. “I find it really rewarding to go there. You’re doing something nice for the community and it doesn’t take much effort.”
Jana Jeyakumar – Consultant
“You get more thank yous than in any other job”
When Jana first qualified as a doctor, she never imagined that one day she’d be working in palliative medicine. But working as a senior house officer in a hospital oncology unit, she found that one of the shining lights was the palliative care team.
“Palliative medicine is different. It’s all about the patient”
Now after eight years working in hospices (three and a half years at Princess Alice Hospice) Jana can’t imagine doing anything else. “I make a real difference here,“ she explains, “because you focus on what people and their families want, rather than the medical agenda. We have a different relationship with our patients and I find that very rewarding.”
Most of Jana’s day is spent outside the Hospice. After a morning meeting with colleagues to discuss her patients, she goes to see them in their homes or care homes. There she is often called upon to help control pain and other symptoms.
Often, she will be called upon to talk to patients about their condition and help them come to terms with their situation. “People can often feel very upset and even angry about what’s happening to them. One great thing about working in a hospice is that we have the luxury of time and resources, so we can give people really good care and support.”
“I’m very lucky to work here”
Another thing Jana really appreciates at Princess Alice Hospice is working in in a large team of highly skilled experts. It’s also a very caring and supportive environment, where people are generous with their time and knowledge. She has learnt a lot from her colleagues and now she is sharing her skills and experience with others.
“It’s not easy but it’s rewarding”
“The people we help are in a difficult, stressful situation – and so are their families. But that’s why the job is so rewarding,“ says Jana. “By helping control someone’s pain or enabling them to keep mobile, you make a huge difference to their quality of life. I know that every day I’m doing something useful – that’s why I love my job.”
Konstantina Chatziargyriou – Quality improvement manager
“We may be the first person a patient of relative speaks to”
The smooth running of our Hospice is down to our amazing clinical administration team. They ensure that our nurses, doctors, social workers and therapists get the support they need to do their jobs. They keep things moving, get things done and provide a vital link between all the different clinical departments at the Hospice.
And they don’t just support our staff – many of our clinical admin staff work directly with patients and families, acting as the first point of contact between them and the Hospice.
“We demonstrate the values of the Hospice in every conversation, letter or email”
What does it take to be an administrator in a Hospice? “You need great admin skills, of course,” says Konstantina. “But you must also be an excellent communicator and be able to show compassion and respect for everyone you come into contact with.”
“Some of the conversations we have can be difficult or upsetting. For example, my team often have to take recently bereaved people through the administrative processes that follow a death. You need to show an enormous amount of empathy and kindness to help people get through it.”
To ensure that there is always someone who can help, Konstantina’s team works on a ‘buddy system’. Individuals learn the skills to step in and help colleagues during busy periods and times of leave and illness.
“We’re lucky to have the chance to make a difficult time a little easier”
What makes working at Princess Alice unlike any other admin job? “The work we do really does make a difference. Whether they’re a doctor or a patient, we’re there to help people at a time when they need it.”
Like everyone else at the Hospice, our clinical admin staff will often go the extra mile. “Last New Year’s Eve, one of our clinical administrators on the inpatient unit was just getting ready to go home,“ Konstantina recalls, “when one of the patients had to be transferred urgently to a London hospital. The patient’s family needed to sort out accommodation in the city. The IPU administrator sat down and searched for hotels within their budget and near to the hospital, so they wouldn’t have to pay for taxis. She didn’t have to do that – it felt natural! People are often surprised at how much we can help them.”