THEY are the people you hope you will never need, they do a job few could handle, but for many St Peter’s Hospice community nurses are a lifeline.
Now with a team of four based in Yate, the charity is expanding the service to help more terminally ill patients live their last days as peacefully as possible at home.
Team leader Liz Attwood said the work can be extremely emotional but also rewarding.
“It is quite a privilege to be allowed to go into somebody’s home and be part of their life at that time,” she said. “We have a duty and a responsibility to do our best and respect their wishes.
“We are a highly experienced team, most come from a district nursing background or oncology wards, and we all have life experience. You need personal maturity because we are giving advice on managing pain and some very difficult symptoms and helping people make decisions about the future.”
The team has been based above St Peter’s charity shop in Yate Shopping Centre for 18 months and each of the four nurses have on average 25 patients at a time. Each case is referred from a GP or hospital and includes people with all types of cancer as well as lung and liver disease, heart failure and neurological diseases.
Once a week they meet with the charity’s own doctor and regularly meet with GPs from Yate’s three surgeries and others in the area they cover including Thornbury, Filton, the Frome Valley and Wotton-under-Edge.
Nurses visit each patient at home regularly, for a varying length of time.
“The average is about six months,” said Liz. “Once a month we all get together to talk about situations we have found quite stressful and we are very supportive to each other, phoning and texting throughout the day.
“You are working on your own most of the time and that can be a lot more intense and you start thinking, have I done everything I can for that patient, just because it is so important to get things right.”
The team meets every morning to discuss each patient, highlight anyone who needs referral to the charity's hospice in Brentry, the hospice at home end of life team or additional care such as music or art therapy which St Peter’s also offers.
“We have to be flexible and always have a space to see someone if they need us,” added Liz. “I do drive to work thinking I hope that patient is okay or I wonder what kind of night that person had.
“It can be very draining but we focus on making a difference, thinking of all the things that can be done to help and if that makes a difference it can be very rewarding. That is what it is all about, improving people’s quality of life.
“We can’t help what is happening but we can help the symptoms and help people live the best life they can within the restrictions of their illness.”
St Peter’s Hospice receives less than a quarter of its funding from the NHS and relies on donations and fundraising of £18,000 a day. To help visit www.stpetershospice.org.uk