Alongside its registered, specialist nurses, Rennie Grove Hospice Care employs Healthcare Assistants (HCAs) to provide support and personal care to patients and their families.
Hannah, 23, joined Rennie Grove as a Healthcare Assistant in July 2015. She works with the nursing teams based in Chalfont St Giles, supporting patients and their families living in and around Wycombe and south Bucks.
Hannah says: “I absolutely love this job. There is such a sense of teamwork and I’m learning so much from working alongside the nurses. I’d worked in a care home for six years before joining Rennie Grove and I just felt like it was time for a change, although I wanted to stay in the field of healthcare.”
Hannah’s role involves visiting patients whose condition is stable and providing personal care such as helping them to shower. She describes herself as the ‘stopgap’ between patients who live alone and have no care package, and those whose care needs are met by a care agency. In this respect, her role is crucial in enabling those patients to come home from hospital, who would otherwise have had to stay there unnecessarily.
Hannah explains: “Some patients don’t want carers to come in from an agency, but they need some form of care package in order to remain at home. Often I’ll go in for a few visits and help them with washing and dressing and then they feel happier about accepting help from carers alongside the nursing care provided by my colleagues.”
Hannah also sits with patients in order to give family members some respite from caring, so they have the chance to catch up on sleep, do some housework or pop to the shops.
“The respite sits I usually do in the afternoon,” adds Hannah, “and I think it’s such a valuable time for carers to take a break. It’s often only for an hour or two, but they can relax a little knowing someone is with their loved one.”
Hannah also supports Rennie Grove’s nurses and family members by picking up forms from doctors’ surgeries and collecting prescriptions. In addition, she uses her beauty therapy qualification to offer patients manicures or to put their hair in rollers.
“It’s obviously not a crucial part of the care we provide, but I really like being able to offer a little extra luxury that can help a patient relax and feel good about themselves,” she says.
Hannah says she has grown so much in confidence since joining Rennie Grove: “When I meet patients, it’s part of my job to make sure there has been no deterioration in their condition – no side effects from medication or recurrence of symptoms. I feedback to the nurses so they can pick up on any concerns. By talking to the nurses about these conversations, I’ve learnt a huge amount in a short space of time.”
As part of her induction, Hannah covered night shifts with nursing colleagues, where, because of the responsive nature of Rennie Grove’s out-of-hours service, she learnt more about the specialist care and hands-on nursing that Rennie Grove provides to patients with palliative care needs.
She says: “During the day, I attend scheduled visits with nurses, where I learn a lot about how to diagnose any underlying issues with a patient’s condition simply by chatting to them. Night visits, on the other hand, are more likely to involve medical intervention: a patient might need their pain relief adjusting or medication from their ‘just in case’ box to bring other symptoms under control.”
When she joined the charity last summer, Hannah was the only HCA supporting the nursing teams in south Bucks, but since then two more have come on board. They will follow Hannah’s footsteps by completing the Care Certificate, a 15-module qualification covering aspects of care such as communication, patient-centred care, nutrition, hygiene and health & safety. Hannah submitted evidence that she could meet the necessary standards in each area and is the first Rennie Grove HCA to have achieved the Certificate.
“I’m very proud to have gained this qualification and to say I work for Rennie Grove. The charity’s nurses are so well respected by families and fellow healthcare professionals alike. It’s a privilege to work alongside them and to help make a difference to people at such a difficult time in their lives,” Hannah concludes.