“The spokes in a wheel”

How our community nurses are caring for patients on Dartmoor

Double act Monika (pictured left) and Kathryn (pictured right) have a job-share as two of Rowcroft’s remarkable specialist community nurses who work out and about in the community visiting people with life-limiting illnesses in their own homes across Dartmoor. They describe themselves as two ‘spokes in a wheel’ – whereby the patients and their loved ones are at the centre of the wheel supported by a myriad of spokes that comprise a diverse range of Rowcroft specialists as well as those in the community such as GPs and other NHS health and social care professionals, and colleagues from care agencies and voluntary organisations. Here Monika tells her story about working as a Rowcroft nurse to support her moorland patients to strive for the best possible quality of life.

Monika’s journey with Rowcroft

“Life with Rowcroft began in 2007 after moving from my previous work in oncology and palliative care in the community in London,” says Monika. “Initially I joined Rowcroft’s Education Team to help  with supporting care homes, and I then switched to the Community Team as a community palliative care nurse. I’m now based in Rowcroft’s moorland team that covers Buckfastleigh, Ashburton, Bovey Tracey and Chudleigh as well as one surgery in Newton Abbot.”

The role of a specialist palliative care nurse

“My role as a specialist palliative care nurse is to address my patients’ and their loved ones’ concerns and to support other health care professionals. I meet patients and family/carers in their home, find out ‘their story’ of their journey in health so far, and assess their needs – and these are not always what I anticipate. I’m very curious about people’s lives, and it’s fascinating to meet so many people from all walks of life and varied backgrounds.

“Those referred to us often have less than a year to live. It’s always been a privilege to work at this crucial time in each person’s life as they come towards the end. Everyone is different, responding to the challenges that this time brings, and I try to deliver personalised support to all.”

The importance of team work

“My work often involves referring patients and those closest to them to other Rowcroft specialists for extra support, for example to our own Rowcroft occupational therapists, physiotherapists, social workers, complementary therapists, our music therapist and art therapist.

“The best thing about working for Rowcroft is our wonderful team within the hospice – I couldn’t do this job alone! No two days are ever the same; the people and the challenges vary, and I feel I am always learning! There is always someone to help shoulder my problems and to share a laugh with too.”

Making a difference

“Through my background training and experience,  I have a great deal of knowledge about the physical symptoms of various illnesses and how these symptoms may be managed. I strive to enable people to have ‘quality of life’ despite the restrictions illness can bring.

“I help by giving time to listen and support and providing clear information and explanations. This is particularly crucial for patients when all active treatment has ended. They are often lost in the ‘unknown’ of what is going to happen next and how they are going to get through this. I am there to support them in that. For example, I help them to understand if they can claim for certain benefits, and I provide other practical advice and information. Even small nuggets of knowledge, such as how to get a blue badge for parking, help to make a real difference.”

Navigating South Devon

“I love driving around Devon’s roads to people’s homes, and I enjoy the delightful country and sea views. Stubbornly, and much to my colleagues’ amusement, I continue to use my faithful roadmaps rather than a sat nav, but this can sometimes lead to a long diversion around Haytor!”

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