I’ve been a registered nurse for 28 years, starting my career in Northern Ireland. I moved to community nursing in 1996. It was during this time I worked with Marie Curie Nursing Service in Northern Ireland.
I developed a passion for palliative care and worked mainly night-duty, caring for people in their homes and supporting their family.
This work prepared me for the expected loss when my mother died. As many people do, I helped care for her in her own home, where she died with her family around her in March 1999.
I saw first hand the support needed by different members of a grieving family, and what her death meant to them.
In 2001 we moved, with a young family, to South West Scotland and settled in a lovely farm over-looking the sea. I joined NHS Ayrshire & Arran and since then I’ve been supported to work and study caring for people with cancer and palliative care to degree and masters level.
Shortly after our move, my father died suddenly and unexpectedly. This opened up a different perspective on death, which I wasn’t as prepared for.
His death made me realise that there are different reactions to the ways in which people die, and the support needed in the weeks and months after is often different.
These experiences, and what I learned from them, remain with me.
I moved from clinical nursing to work on several palliative care projects improving palliative care in the community, including Gold Standards Framework in 2004 and more recently Macmillan Education Programme for upskilling generalists in palliative care in 2011.
A recent thesis study explored the knowledge and skills required by family members to look after someone who was palliative at home. This was another window into the support needed by families to use equipment, move people and general knowledge for managing medicines.
My interest remains in caring for the individual and their family during this distressing time, when people are often at their most vulnerable.
My aim is that the person can die peacefully in a place of their choosing, and their family will feel supported and cared for while caring for their loved one.
I’ll update you soon on the work I’ve been involved in around palliative beds in care homes.