Lizzie Mortimore is a Nurse on the Sobell House ward. She was recently interviewed by ‘The i’ newspaper and shared her experience of working as an End of Life Care Nurse.
Q: Why did you decide to do the job?
I decided to go into nursing as it was a place where I could care for people, where I could continuously develop my learning and understanding of medical sciences and a place where I could develop my professional discipline to really challenge myself further, each day.
I decided to work in palliative care as I loved the idea of being able to spend more time with patients, whilst building relationships with them and their family.
Q: What kind of training do you do for the job?
My training was a three-year course with Oxford Brookes University. They have a school of life sciences built especially for nurses, midwives, occupational therapists, physios and paramedics.
We’d spend half the year in lectures and the other half in full time hospital ward placements, averaging two placements per year.
In total, you have to spend 2770 hours in clinical practice before you can qualify, whilst completing many written and practical exams, essays and a 15,000-word dissertation.
Q: What is Sobell House like, which areas are you in most of the time?
The hospice is bright, homely and welcoming. It has 18 beds and most patients have their own side rooms. Some are placed in shared same sex bays if they’re well enough and want company of other patients.
As an end of life care nurse you are constantly moving from room to room and spend quite a lot of time preparing medications in the drug room to bring to patients. In my day-to-day role I work closely with other team members, whether that’s therapists, doctors, bereavement nurses or helping with the drinks trolley.
At Sobell House we have a drinks trolley for patients, so if someone comes in who has a favourite type of drink - whether that’s elderflower water, diet coke or a local craft beer, we ensure our fridge is full. It’s the little things that can help in a very distressing time.
Q: Can you describe a typical day at work - hour by hour?
A typical working day for me starts at 7.30am when I arrive at Sobell House. The day starts with a handover from the night shift who will describe why the patient has been admitted to the ward and details any care needs from the previous shift. At 8am, introduce myself to the patients I am caring for that day, make any care assessments followed by the morning drug round.
From 9:00am-12:00pm, I get all my patients washed, dressed and ready for the day. During this time, I’ll speak to family members of the patient and discuss expectations and care needs for the patient.
Throughout the shift I’ll review each individual’s care needs - do they need physio/dietician/social input – are there any wounds to be dressed, do they need to go to any scans?
At 11.30am we have a tea break and then we start writing patient notes.
At 1pm I start the lunch time medication round, continuing to review and address changing care needs before I go on my lunch break sometime after 2.30pm.
After lunch, I check all patients again and re-address their care needs and ensure patients have been repositioned where appropriate.
At 6pm it’s the evening medication round and I’ll update all notes before starting the handover to night staff.Before I leave I’ll tell all patients that the night staff are taking over and say goodbye. My shift finishes at 8pm.
Q: What do you enjoy/what’s difficult?
I enjoy building relationships with the patients, relatives and within the team. It’s also great when you identify something a patient really is struggling with, and working closely with the medical team are able to effectively manage those symptoms making that patient comfortable in their day. It’s immensely challenging but also very satisfying.
It’s up to the nurses to work alongside everyone involved to try and resolve, improve and empathise, when people are going through something which is perhaps the hardest experience of their lives.
Q: What have you learnt from the job? Has it changed the way you view life and death?
Sobell House has taught me that life is precious. We take good health for granted, and sometimes just being able to cycle away from work and to be able to do all things in life that I love doing, feels like such a blessing. It puts my own worries into perspective and helps me see the bigger picture. It’s taught me the importance of kindness in all things.
As far as death is concerned - we’re all on a life line - it just so happens to be my privilege to be able to be there as other people reach the end of their lives, and to do my best to improve their quality of life in offering the best nursing care in that time.
I think end of life care is a philosophy that you have to understand. When you look after a patient who can no longer do things for themselves, it’s your responsibility to do those things for them, so they don’t feel powerless. A good nurse should always be an advocate for their patient, understanding all their care needs and being their voice, perhaps making a stand for them in difficult situations.
Nurses and nursing assistants spend the most time with patients, so it is our responsibility to relay important information to the medical team, so that they receive the best care that they deserve.