As part of a series of articles exploring the range of services available day and night for Rennie Grove patients in St Albans and the surrounding area, hospice at home nurse Anne Banks gives an insight into working the night shift for the charity.
“I’ve worked with the charity Rennie Grove for seven years and in that time I’ve seen first-hand just how absolutely essential our overnight service is. It’s literally a lifeline for our patients and their families and I’m so proud to have seen the service develop and mature over those seven years – always with the patient at its heart.
“Working nights suits me because it fits better with my lifestyle. Working from 9pm till 7am frees up my days to help look after my five grandchildren. I’m contracted to work six nights over four weeks, but invariably I’ll work more because I’m available and I genuinely love my job. Sometimes we’ll travel 150 miles during a night shift – because we cover the whole Rennie Grove patch which is split into teams during the day – but despite that I always feel able to give my patients the time they need. We visit in pairs at night and we’ll stay for as long as we can if the patient and their family want us to, sometimes two or three hours.
“I used to work as a matron on a busy hospital ward and I would get frustrated because I couldn’t spend the time with patients that I wanted to. Although patient numbers are rising at Rennie Grove, the time we have to spend with patients is never compromised. There’s always a colleague we can call to ensure that all our commitments are honoured but none of our patients or their families feels rushed. That’s why I started nursing: to provide quality care on the patient’s timescale.
“The job is very varied too. Because night visits are unscheduled they often involve symptom management and hands-on nursing care, as well as the sadly inevitable support for families when the death of a loved one is imminent or has just happened. On a typical night shift I could be carrying out personal care to help make a patient more comfortable and settled – or performing last offices and verifying death – or I might be responding to a sudden deterioration in a patient’s condition which requires pain relief from the ‘just in case’ medication that we arrange to be kept at a patient’s house. It means we can respond immediately and get symptoms under control straight away without having to wait for the out-of-hours doctor. That can make the difference between a patient being able to stay at home or having to be rushed into hospital in the middle of the night.
“Sometimes a family member panics and rings us and 999. In these cases the paramedics will often ring us to get a better understanding of a patient’s situation. I think it’s great that Rennie Grove nurses have such a good relationship with other healthcare professionals – District Nurses, out-of-hours doctors, paramedics – it enables everyone to do their job more effectively and give the patient the best possible, seamless care.
“I’m so proud of the way the service has matured over the years – never losing sight of its patient-centred ethos and 24/7 offering. I was involved in setting up the night service in 2011. Prior to that, all nurses worked a day shift then took turns to be on call at night. As patient numbers grew it became harder to manage that system as it impacted on our scheduled daytime visits too. The dedicated night team means that families are far more willing to call us out. We tell them we are literally waiting for their call! Previously nurses would be at home but on call overnight – which I think made families more reticent about phoning.
“I feel privileged to be playing a part in this unique, amazing service in a way that works for me and my patients.”
Alongside the range of day services at Grove House - and the support for families offered from diagnosis, during illness and post-bereavement - Rennie Grove’s 24/7 responsive hospice at home service is designed to help patients live a good quality life at home for as long as possible, even spending their final days there if that is their wish.