Donna explores new horizons with Hospice at Home

Rowcroft’s Hospice at Home team cares for patients at home in their last two weeks of life. Since the start of the pandemic, the team has seen a huge increase in demand for their care due to the COVID crisis and the needs of an increasingly ageing local population. Last year, Senior Healthcare Assistant Donna Powell transferred from Rowcroft’s Inpatient Unit to lend a hand in the Hospice at Home team. Donna fell in love with the role and subsequently became a fully-fledged member of the team, travelling widely across South Devon to care for patients. Here she reveals what motivated her to go into nursing, and what it’s been like caring for families through the pandemic.

“I went into nursing to care for others. Having fought off cancer twice in my life with the help of expert care and treatment, I wanted to give something back – and my work with Rowcroft enables me to do this. Rowcroft is such a special place, full of dedicated people who go above and beyond. I see on a daily basis the amazing care and support that is given and the invaluable service that we provide both in the community and in the Inpatient Unit.

“The Hospice at Home team is a small but dedicated team providing end-of-life care for people in their own homes across 300 square miles of South Devon. One of the things I love about my job is that one day I could be driving across our beautiful Dartmoor (in all weathers) dodging sheep and ponies, and the next day I could be catching the ferry back from Dartmouth after visiting a patient in Slapton or Strete.

“As a Senior Healthcare Assistant within the team, I offer palliative care to patients, and by spending time with them, I really get to know any issues or fears they may have. I also assist families with any practical help and support they may need. Sometimes the very act of holding a hand or just sitting and listening to a patient or their loved one ‘off-load’ is all that is needed, and a big hug. Obviously physical contact is not allowed at the moment. I really struggle with this as I believe human touch goes a long way and plays an important part when offering emotional support. I’m a big hugger!

“After visiting COVID-positive patients and wearing a full set of personal protective equipment (PPE) including gowns, gloves and face shields (or in my case a mask with a filter that makes me look like and sound like Darth Vader’s wife!), I return hot and thirsty to the hospice to immediately shower and change into clean scrubs or uniforms. This can happen several times a day and/or night. It is hot and dehydrating (as I’m unable to drink while wearing the mask) and it can be exhausting wearing the full PPE. My skin does suffer, but it enables me to keep safe and continue to help and support those who need us.

“As a member of the Hospice at Home team, it is such a privilege and an honour to be welcomed into a patient’s home at such an emotional and vulnerable time in their lives. We go above and beyond whenever possible, because we are all passionate about what we do.”

Donna’s dedication to the hospice is taking her to new heights. On 10 July, she’s jumping out of a plane to raise crucial funds for the hospice! If you’d like to sponsor Donna’s skydive, you can do so at: www.justgiving.com/donna-powell13

You can make a difference too.

You can help care for patients at home at the end of their lives by making a donation to Rowcroft’s Hospice at Home Appeal at: www.rowcrofthospice.org.uk/home

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