Today (Wednesday May 12) is International Nurses Day, and a former office worker turned Sue Ryder St John's Hospice nurse is sharing her story.
When a Sue Ryder Nurse role was advertised at Sue Ryder St John’s Hospice in 2017, Nicola Fountain seized the opportunity.
Since then, she has become a valued member of the hospice’s inpatient unit team, caring for people with life-limiting conditions, and has been helping everyone to stay vigilant during this unprecedented time in healthcare.
“I didn’t train to be a nurse until I was 30,” said Nicola.
“I worked in office administrator jobs and also spent some time travelling. I didn’t quite find what I wanted to do. I considered a career in the police, but nursing won. Every day counts – it is a cliché, but it is true. It is rewarding helping patients to get the best care they deserve.”
After her nurse training, Nicola worked in the Department of Medicine for the Elderly at Luton and Dunstable University Hospital. She then worked as part of the Hospital at Home team offering an outreach service to prevent unnecessary visits to the site, which included administering intravenous medication to people in their own homes.
“I am passionate about palliative care and when a job came up at Sue Ryder St John’s Hospice it was my opportunity,” she added.
Nicola started working as a Staff Nurse on the Bedfordshire hospice’s 15-bed inpatient unit in September 2017.
Nicola is part of a multidisciplinary team, which includes fellow nurses and nursing assistants, doctors, a physiotherapist, occupational therapist, family and bereavement support workers and a chaplain/spiritual care coordinator. Together, they provide holistic care, focussing not only on the medical side of things but on emotional, practical and spiritual support.
A typical day as a hospice nurse
She added: “The hospice is a friendly place. When I first started, I had come to a new area but soon met lots of new people. Everyone helped me to settle in.”
Nicola’s typical day starts at 7am with a handover from colleagues who have cared for patients overnight. Next up is a round of the ward to check in on patients.
“A key part of our patient care is making sure people are as comfortable as possible,” she said. “This includes relieving any symptoms they might be experiencing, such as pain, breathlessness and nausea.”
Other typical tasks include helping the nursing assistants with personal care and liaising with doctors about any alterations to medication.
“The most rewarding part of my job is being able to spend time with patients,” said Nicola. “I have the time to really get to know and care for them.”
Nicola and her colleagues also take it in turns to work night shifts. “We offer 24-hour care. Jobs don’t get left undone and things don’t get put off. There is always someone there, all day and night. The care we give is really important – it has to be done and it has to be done right.”
How Covid-19 changed the job
When the coronavirus pandemic started in early 2020, Nicola and the team had to quickly adapt to new ways of working to keep everyone safe - including wearing lots of personal protective equipment (PPE).
Nicola has found the restrictions to visiting especially challenging.
She said: “It has been very difficult and different. We were used to relatives and loved ones coming in to the hospice 24/7.”
When Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced that people ‘must stay at home’ back in March 2020, Nicola was on annual leave at the time.
“I remember thinking, ‘I better go back to work’,” she said.
“I came back to the hospice and started helping out.
"The first few months of the pandemic were a big learning curve. It was a challenging time. The guidance changed rapidly and there was a lot to get my head around.
"But everyone really pulled together and there was plenty of support offered – from the hospice’s senior management team to support services, family support and our chaplain. They were all there if you needed it.
“The pandemic has shown that teamwork is really important. We shine the most when we work together.”
More nurses are needed to join the team
Sue Ryder St John’s Hospice is currently searching for Registered Nurses and Nursing Assistants to join its 'Outstanding' CQC rated hospice and be there when it matters for local families.
The Bedfordshire-based hospice offers time to care in one of the most rewarding areas of nursing, in a supportive and friendly environment with great benefits.
To find out more about the available job roles, please email: [email protected]