Meet the Rowans Hospice nurse who says it's so important that death is 'done well'
Mary Barker is Ward Nurse at the Rowans Hospice. Since she qualified nearly 35 years ago, Mary mostly worked in a community hospital before she joined the Rowans more than six years ago. Here she explains why she has chosen to work in the in-patient ward and how renovation of the hospice will help patients
I love what we do at the Rowans. I am passionate about dying, which sounds a crazy thing and probably makes me very odd, but I really feel that it is so important
Death happens to us all, but it also happens to people that we know and love and I want to see that done well.
Looking back it seems inevitable that I would work at a hospice. Many years ago my interest in hospice care was sparked by a conversation with a former hospice worker, who outlined how you can die well.
From that initial conversation and my further experiences of witnessing hospice care, as a link nurse between a hospital and hospice setting, and my occasional work as a bank nurse at the hospice, I saw the possibility of people dying with dignity and privacy and for families to be supported.
That is what I also love about working here. We care for the relatives and we can support them. The patients have the privacy of their own room, their own bathroom and there is room for families, so that they have quality time together.
I see that as really, really important. As is the time we can give to the patients and their families.
We try to answer all their questions and will involve them in the care so they are able to understand what is going on, helping to ease feelings of fear and anxiety.
It just makes my heart sing to see when we have done it well. You see people who come in, in a great deal of distress and turmoil at the most difficult time in their lives for them or their families. It is such a privilege to help them.
You know when you have helped by the reaction of the relatives. When they say to you: ‘We weren’t sure about the hospice but you have talked to me, given me time, you have helped me understand things.’
Or they say ‘they were at peace’, or a lot of times they just say ‘I am so glad they were here’.
It is a hard job, but it’s also very rewarding and I couldn’t do anything else. People ask how do I do it and I say: ‘Well I couldn’t teach teenagers’. Really and truly!
I think it is what you are used to, it is what you feel led to do, but it’s about the skills that you develop and about the amazing support for each other within the team and from our managers as well.
I know the importance of dying well because I have had people that are close to me die. They live on with you and so do their last days and moments.
That is why it is so important to me, as a Rowans nurse, to make sure death is done well both for the patient and their loved ones.
Mary, what are you most looking forward to about the renovation of the hospice?
The fact that it will help to get rid of a few little niggles.
Knowing we are going to have sliding doors to the bathroom and new bedroom flooring will create a smoother transition for patients from bedroom to bathroom.
This will be so much better, especially if the patient feels uncomfortable or is in pain.
Just having fresh surroundings will help the wellbeing of staff, volunteers and patients.
Especially as the renovation plans to bring more light in and make the most of our beautiful gardens and surroundings.
The renovation will also make sure that the whole of the ward is sympathetically decorated for the needs of patients with dementia.
Another really positive step forward is the introduction of new technology.
For a patient to know they can open the curtains, dim the lights, increase the heating etc. will give them a feeling of control, which they often feel the illnesses has robbed them of.
The new technology will help them to maintain their independence and decrease their dependency on others.
This can only result in a positive impact on their emotional and physical wellbeing.
So please, pledge to do one thing for the hospice’s Silver Jubilee Appeal.
By doing so, you will be helping to create a hospice fit for the future care of everyone in our community affected by diagnoses of life-limiting illnesses.