Dr Paul Beadon, Rowans Hospice Psychology and Bereavement Service Lead, explains how he came to work in a hospice and also discusses the nature and impact of his work.
What made you want to work in a hospice?
After finishing my psychology degree, but before undertaking my clinical psychology training, I got my very first psychology job working as an assistant psychologist at the Rowans Hospice back in 2004.
That initial experience of working with people who were living with a life-shortening illness, and with their families and with the bereaved, shaped the way that I thought about the work of a clinical psychologist.
Ultimately it influenced the future decisions I made about my career and the areas of therapy that I chose to specialise in.
I knew that Rowans was where I wanted to work when I qualified because it is an incredibly compassionate, innovative place to work, with a deep focus on delivering high quality care that balances the importance of the medical, psychological, social, and spiritual needs of people. This holistic approach to delivering care feels as if it’s in the very DNA of Rowans Hospice.
I moved on from that first post at Rowans and went off to do my training. Fortunately for me, just as I was qualifying as a clinical psychologist in 2009, a job came up in the Psychology Service and I became a full-time part of the team.
What does your role involve?
I manage the day-to-day running of the Psychology and Bereavement Service, ensuring the team have all the support and training that they need, that patients are getting seen in a timely manner, and that the quality of the service remains high at all times. I have my own caseload of patients and provide advice to my team about the work that they are doing with patients.
We work closely with the wider hospice team, providing advice to other colleagues about the psychological care they provide. We also deliver specialist training to other professionals, such as advanced communications skills training courses, and run mindfulness-based Stress Reduction courses.
How does your service support people who are facing life limiting illness and their families?
All people living with a life-limiting illness will experience periods of sadness, grief, worry, and other strong, difficult emotions. Often families find it challenging to talk about these things together as they are worried of upsetting each other.
Sometimes the emotions and strains created by the illness cause a level of distress that is best supported by people with specialist training, which is where my team comes in. Our training provides us with the knowledge to deliver a number of different therapies, which scientific research has shown to be effective in reducing distress and helping people to manage during difficult periods of their lives, such as those encountered when someone has a serious illness or has been bereaved.
We meet with people to develop a clear picture of what is happening for them and then we select the therapeutic approaches that are best suited to support them. While this can all sound a bit technical, the experience is not like that. We work to create an environment in which someone can feel safe and secure in talking about whatever they need to, with full confidentiality, knowing that the psychologist will always be non-judgemental and supportive of whatever they are experiencing.
We provide space for people to understand their thoughts and feelings better and think about how they can best take care of themselves.
What has surprised you about working within a hospice setting?
What is most surprising when first working in the hospice, is that a good deal of the work is about helping people to live well with a serious illness. People can feel that they lose their identities because the illness changes so much of their lives. All teams within Rowans work to optimise people’s wellbeing, comfort, dignity and ability to live the best life they are able to.
After 10 years at the Rowans, do you want to move on?
The sense that you have positively contributed to lessening someone’s distress and helped them feel more like themselves again can feel incredibly rewarding. It is a privilege to get to work alongside the amazing people that I meet in my job. That includes patients, families and the bereaved, but also my colleagues. I get to learn from the people around me every day. I can’t imagine ever working anywhere else.