Today (Tuesday 12 May) is International Nurses Day – marking the 200th birthday of nursing pioneer Florence Nightingale.
When the World Health Organisation designated 2020 as the International Year of the Nurse & Midwife – few probably could have predicted the poignancy of such a campaign. Globally nurses are playing a vital role in their communities, on the frontline providing care and compassion – and no more so than in the last few months as the world confronts the coronavirus outbreak.
And here in Somerset, we have much to celebrate and reflect on, as our nursing community has stepped up like never before to respond to the worst healthcare crisis in living memory. At St Margaret’s, our team of dedicated hospice nurses are no strangers to dealing with the heartbreak and sadness of losing a loved one – it’s what they do every day – supporting those individuals and their families, who are facing a life-limiting illness, so that each day counts. In a matter of weeks, our nurses have adapted how they work, so that this level of care and compassion is not compromised.
A key aspect of that is talking openly about death, dying and bereavement. By confronting our fears and sharing our worries we can start to come to terms with, and face end of life in a more controlled and positive way. Now more than ever we need to embrace the need to talk about death, and continue the dialogue, as we all deal with our individual and collective grief as a community.
Just because we’re in the midst of a national crisis doesn’t mean our conversations stop; in fact these conversations have become all the more meaningful and important. Talking about death and dying is a huge part of what we do at St Margaret’s to prepare patients and their loved ones for what is to come and to help prepare them for the challenges they will face. We will be joining in with the national discussion this week along with other hospices as part of Dying Matters Week – an awareness campaign designed to get people talking about death, dying and bereavement
says Ann Lee, former nurse and current CEO.
It’s good to talk…
In a short space of time St Margaret’s has adapted it’s services to ensure that, even if it is not safe to see patients face to face, they can still speak directly to us on the phone. Other health care professionals in the county – not used to providing end of life care or taking about death – are also contacting us to access expert advice about symptom management and practical support. A 20% increase in calls to our 24 hour advice line were answered by our specialist staff during the last month.
New practical resources for families and carers have also been created and are now available on our website – including tools to help families and friends talk about loss, and say goodbye to people they love in these most unprecedented circumstances.
At a time when digital resources have become so important we decided to make sure that no matter where you are you are able to access our nurse’s care and support. Whether that’s through our 24/7 advice line or via the new pages on the website.
Joy Milliken, Director of Clinical Services at St Margaret’s is incredibly proud of how her team has risen to the challenge, and adds:
I have watched in awe as our nurses and clinical team, have worked through this pandemic, innovating how they work to ensure the best possible care and support for our patients and their families. Whether they have been visiting patients in their homes, supporting colleagues in care homes, caring for our patients in our In-patient Unit or being on the end of the phone 24/7, they have put themselves on the frontline fearlessly.
I cannot thank them enough – but huge credit should also go to our local community whose unwavering support has meant that we have been able to continue ensure dying people in our community receive the best care they possibly can.
St Margaret’s would like to thank everyone who has supported the hospice over the last few weeks. Whether you’ve donated to our Emergency Fund, brought a packet of our Ruby Sunflower seeds, volunteered to make or donate Personal Protective Equipment, or gone the extra mile in your daily exercise routine to raise funds - we really can’t thank you enough.”