Karenne, Manager of Hospice at Home Team
When I started out as a student nurse, I had no real idea where I would be 25 years later.
I had a yearning to do the midwifery course and become a midwife, and did at one point get accepted to do that but life events often change your perspective and I decided not to go down that route after all. I have no regrets, my nursing career has been (mostly!) fulfilling and enjoyable.
The journey begins
I was a mature student and qualified at the age of 34 still holding onto my dream of being a midwife and commenced as a staff nurse in gynaecology, which I loved. Colleagues on the ward did bank for the hospice and I really couldn’t understand how they could say that it wasn’t depressing to work there – now I can, but I had to go on a journey to get there. Following gynae, I specialised in fertility and spent a few years helping to make babies, which was great, but I got to the stage of wanting to do something different, I just didn’t know what.
Joining a hospice at home team
Quite by chance, the local hospice – that I had thought dreary and miserable! – were advertising for registered nurses to join the hospice at home team. This role required me to work in patients’ homes at night to give medication and allow the family to rest or to give them support as their loved one was dying. Through personal experience I knew how supportive this can be, my dad died when I was 17 and my Mum found her palliative care nurse – provided by Marie Curie – invaluable.
I went along to the interview and one of the questions they asked was why palliative care? Thinking about it, the specialism wasn’t that far away from fertility despite them being at opposite ends of the life span. There can be lots of loss and bereavement in the journey to get pregnant, so from an emotional point of view I felt I had the experience. Added to that, I had always felt privileged to be with someone at the end of their lives, ensuring that they were comfortable and peaceful. It’s something very special and it’s not for everyone. The thought of the hospice being this dark miserable place started to vanish and I started to see how it can be a place of laughter and fun as well.
So, I got the job and thoroughly enjoyed those nights where I could support family and friends caring for their loved one and helping to fulfil the wish for patients to die at home. I held several different roles in that hospice at home team and completed my degree in palliative care.
Joining the team at Rowcroft
I had learnt so much but wanted to learn more and so when we decided to move to Devon I applied for a job as a clinical nurse specialist in the community. As I went up the drive to Rowcroft I instantly knew that I wanted to work here, it felt comforting and safe. The grounds are amazing, who could resist working in that environment?
Luckily I got the job! Whilst working as a CNS I held my own caseload and worked closely with GPs, community nurses and the hospice consultants, managing complex symptoms and trying to ensure that whatever time my patients had left were as best as they could be. I did the non-medical prescribing course which made my job a lot easier and ensured that patients had timely access to medication.
Career development at Rowcroft
After 6 years I was itching to progress again. I had some health issues that were causing me problems with climbing flights of stairs and jumping in and out of a car all day long so when the role of Hospice at Home Manager became vacant, I was thrilled. I could go back to where my love of palliative care began. It was a steep learning curve once again, I became manager just as COVID hit and things changed on a day-to-day basis. I am now part of a senior clinical team that supports and learns from each other. I am the NMP lead for the hospice so meet regularly with other NMP leads across the region. Hospice at Home has just gone through a three year expansion plan and with the support of my team, I led all those changes! My team is incredible and I couldn’t achieve what I have done without them. Recently we won an award for personalised care and I was so proud I cried!
Who would have thought that I would be here now when I started my training??