We have the time to…get to know you and to listen to you and your loved ones

From the moment a patient enters one of our hospices they’re surrounded by a compassionate team of people. Each prides themselves on providing individualised care and the conversations begin as soon as someone comes through the doors. To find out more we’ve been chatting to Sally Davies, our Ward Sister at Mount Edgcumbe Hospice (pictured below);

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Sally, what happens when a patient first arrives at the hospice?

They’re greeted by a nurse, sometimes two, whose job it is to welcome them in and get them settled and comfortable. These days we’re having to wear face masks, but we try and use our voices and our eyes to convey our warm welcome.

We take the patient to their room and settle them in a chair or their bed before carrying out some medical observations and asking our Covid-19 screening questions.  Paramount is the patient’s comfort and we quietly start to introduce them to key people while offering them a cuppa and if they feel up to it, a cake or biscuit. We then allow them to recover after their journey.

Once the patient is settled, we’ll start on the inevitable paperwork. We also tell them more about the hospice and what we offer and we explain the routines like meal times and when and who can visit. We want to make sure they know what to expect.

How do you go about settling people in, especially if they’re worried or nervous of being at a hospice?

It’s about reassurance. We make sure they know we’ll look after them and that we have time to chat and to listen, to hear what might be worrying them. Every patient is different, some are fine and happy to be with us, others can be very poorly and unsettled. We respond accordingly.

What do you do to get to know the patient and their family and friends?

It is about chatting, communication. We ask what they like to be called and what’s important to them. We also compile a family tree so we know who’s close to them and what they’re called too. I guess it’s like making a new friend, you get to know them by talking and by listening. Even though we’ve got restricted visiting at the moment, we try and ensure they can see those who mean most to them, we even have iPads so they can link up with people digitally.

How important is the relationship between the hospice team and the patient?

It’s absolutely pivotal. We have to ensure a warm and open relationship so we can do our very best for the patient.  A relative once said to me that they believe impressions are made within the first ten minutes of meeting people and arriving at a new place. It means you’ve got 10 minutes to make a good impression and to show how special the hospice is and how welcome they are. It’s vital that we put the patient first so they know they’re important and that we’ve got as much time as they need.

How important is the whole team, nurses, healthcare assistants, chefs, housekeepers and volunteers in the process of getting to know people?  

Everyone plays a vital part in getting it right for our patients. The healthcare assistants probably spend a lot more time with the patients than the nurses, so they can build up a very different relationship and can glean a lot of extra information. Our volunteers choose to be here and often they get chatting with patients and their families when serving meals or delivering flowers. The chefs have a different relationship too, as they sit with patients and try to find ways of enticing them to eat, finding food people want and when necessary, making favourite meals. The housekeepers are often in patients’ rooms for longer periods of time and they too get in to conversation. Between us all we build up a picture so we can care for the individual and appreciate the little things that can make their stay very special.

Why do patients and their loved ones appreciate us having time to get to know them and listen to them?

Only today a relative said to me what a pleasure it had been seeing his loved one cared for here. He said it was the first time he’d seen the person out of pain and that they only had to sigh and a nurse was there.  It’s about recognising when someone needs help to settle, finding them a peace. It’s also about giving the family the time to hand the care over to us, so they can return to being a husband, wife, parent, child.  It’s rewarding when you see someone feel relaxed enough to go home for a break knowing we’ll take care of their precious relative or friend.

What are you aiming to achieve for your patients when they’re with you?

We need to ask what it is that they’re expecting, what they want and need. Some people just want to be out of pain, others are aiming to go home and some patients want a safe and comfortable place to die. Their wishes are at the heart of our care and that’s why it’s such a privilege that we have time for the patient and time to make sure their wishes are met wherever possible.

Our two Cornish hospices – Mount Edgcumbe in St Austell and St Julia’s in Hayle – are open 24/7 for those who need us most. You can find out more here.