Louise Hankin joined St Wilfrid’s in January 2022 and as Clinical Nurse Specialist she looks after our patients in the local community in their own homes. We asked her about her role and why working at St Wilfrid’s is important to her…
Q. What made you want to become a nurse?
A. I always wanted to be a nurse ever since I was little. In 2022 I started my 23rd year as a nurse; I qualified in October 2000 when I started working for the NHS.
I originally wanted to work in accident and emergency, which I did for four years, and then after a slight back injury it became a little more difficult. I then decided that I wanted to work more in the community. So, I was a community nurse, then a clinical lead nurse in the community. I was in the community for 18 years before I joined St Wilfrid’s Hospice. I absolutely love working in the community and I wouldn’t work anywhere else.
Q. Did you find the transition from NHS to charity difficult?
A. I didn’t deliberately seek to leave the NHS, but I got to a point where I wanted to use the skills that I had more effectively. I saw the CNS role at St Wilfrid’s come up and I really just felt like this a really good opportunity. I get to see a lot of patients, I get to prescribe, and I also get to use all of my respiratory interests and skills for the patients here which is really nice.
Q. Can you explain to us a little bit about what a CNS does?
A. As a Clinical Nurse Specialist, my job is to give to make sure patients are supported and to know what to expect after their diagnosis. There is a lot of symptom control; it isn’t just end of life care. It’s all about trying to help people cope with their everyday symptoms, whether that be pain, breathlessness or nausea, and we just try to support and help monitor them so they do have a good quality of life. These patients can live for quite some time with debilitating symptoms which they need support with.
There is a common misconception that all of the care given at the Hospice is on the ward, but actually the majority of care is given in the community. We go out every day to see our patients and support them as best we can.
Q. Can you describe a typical day as a CNS?
A. There isn’t a typical day as a CNS, every day is different for us. Generally, we come into work and have a meeting at 9am with the ward, doctors and the CNS team and we overview the day and prioritise which patients are most important for admission. Then I might prepare for some patient home visits. I would go through the notes of the patients who are expecting a visit from me that day, make sure I get everything together that I need, go out and do some visits, then hopefully get back to the Hospice at some point for something to eat. I have to come back and write the notes up; there is a lot of writing and organising ordering of equipment. I try to sort out whatever has come out of the visit that day so there’s no delay for the patient, especially if I need to do assessments for a care package.
Q. What surprises people about hospice care?
A. I think there is still quite a misconception that hospice and palliative care is only for people who have cancer at the end of their life. There is so much more to it than that. It’s all about symptom control and trying to promote a quality of life. To try and live with the illness that they have. When I go to see someone, at the beginning of every assessment I always try to describe what the hospice can offer, and it depends on the situation, but I always make sure they know that we are there first and foremost for support and to help them with symptoms. I hope this alleviates some of the anxiety they might have.
I do always say to the patient’s families that we are here for the family as well as the patient. We’ve got a really good support service here, which I do try and promote to people. We have bereavement support and the family services team who can provide telephone support from trained volunteers and our hospice visitors can also do home visits where it’s necessary.
Q. Why do you think it’s important to talk about end of life care?
A. Society doesn’t really like to talk about death and it’s turned in to some sort of scary thing and we only have one chance to get it right for people. It’s really important that people are aware that there is help and support out there; it doesn’t have to be something that is scary and I think the more that people talk about death and dying, the more we will normalise it and it won’t feel like such a scary topic to talk about. The more we can empower people to talk about it, the better.
Q. How do you feel when you tell people you work for St Wilfrid’s?
A. I feel really privileged and really proud to able to say I work here. People often say ‘oh you must be an angel I don’t know how you can do that job’, but I would encourage everyone else who wants to nurse in specialist palliative care to give it a try because it’s just so rewarding.
It makes such a difference that the team here are so great. We’ve got so many people in the team who have different interests and skills, so we all work really well together. If you’re not sure about anything, we can always ask and support each other. It’s just a really lovely place to work. If you’re even thinking about it just come and join us because it’s a really lovely job.