- Senior School
- Sixth Form
Georgia’s & Giulia’s Story
Thursday 9 May 2019
Two of our Sixth Formers have recently completed the Young Clinical Volunteer programme at St Wilfrid’s Hospice. The experience has been a powerful one for both girls; deepening their understandings of life and death, as well as giving them a better understanding of what their chosen fields involve - and they have both made a huge difference to the people they cared for.
Here is what they had to say about this profound experience:
Georgia’s Young Clinical Volunteer experience:
When most people think about medicine, the first thing that comes to mind is the thought of curing people, fixing people, making them feel better. It is so easy to lose perspective of individuals who have a terminal illness, who can’t be cured. Volunteering as a Young Clinical Volunteer at St. Wilfrid’s has taught me how important it is to look beyond patients’ diagnoses – to see them as the person they are, as opposed to just their illness.
I have enjoyed getting to know patients and their families, and finding out what is important to them. I developed a particularly strong rapport with one patient, who was a long-term resident on the IPU, having stayed here at the hospice for just over 4 months. This gentleman had Motor Neuron Disease, and needed constant assistance as he was unable to carry out tasks himself. I would feed him dinner every shift and often also helped to wash and transfer him. This time spent together facilitated us to get to know each other very well, and he loved finding more about me, and about the work I did at the hospice. He would often comment on my ‘tender hands’ and how I ‘spotted little things others didn’t’ which helped me to realise how much he enjoyed the company. He grew weaker as his disease progressed, and as a result, began to need more specialised care. He was soon transferred to a care home which specialises in providing care for people with severe physical and neurological disabilities. I was upset to find that he had been discharged; as I never managed to say goodbye to him and wish him well for the future. Upon beginning my next shift after him being discharged, I was handed an envelope by Nicki, one of the charge nurses. Inside was a letter from this patient. She explained how that the evening prior to his discharge, he called her into his room especially to write a letter for me, which he dictated. I was incredibly touched by the letter, which thanked me for the care I had given him whilst he was at the hospice. To know that the care I helped provide to this gentleman meant so much to him really moved me, as he thought of me as a person he could trust and confide in. It was a privilege getting to know him and his family, and I wrote a letter back. His courage and determination inspires me every day. Sadly, he lost his battle with Motor Neuron Disease, and died just last week.
It has been emotionally challenging seeing patients in pain and at their most vulnerable, however this has helped me to foster a strong sense of empathy and compassion, which will prove invaluable in the future. Being empathetic towards patients has often led to the development of incredibly strong emotional bonds. On one shift, I went into the room of a patient who was crying out in pain. She had been given some morphine for her pain, however it hadn’t kicked in yet, so she was in agony. She was also very distressed and explained to me how she had ‘lost all her fight’ and that she ‘couldn’t go on like this’ and ‘wanted it all to end’. I didn’t want her to be alone through her feeling like this, so I sat with her and held her hand as she battled through the pain. Despite the amount of pain she was in, I can vividly remember how warm her hands were – and how cold mine were. I stayed with her for the rest of my shift, until she felt comfortable. Before I left her room, she looked up at me, smiled, and said “I’ve warmed your hands up”. On my next shift, I went in to see her. She was now on a syringe driver to help manage her pain, and looked a lot brighter. She recognised me and her face lit up. It was as if she was a different person. I sat with her whilst she chatted and joked with me. I told her she looked a lot better, and she replied that I ‘should’ve gone to Specsavers!’ Her room also smelt very nice and I asked her what it was. Continuing to joke with me, she asked whether it was the ‘smell of death’ whilst proceeding to spray her perfume on me. Now every time I smell this perfume, I think of her. Before leaving her room, she thanked me for my compassion and told me that I was doing such a great job. She died peacefully several days later.
My time at the hospice has been eye-opening; watching multi-disciplinary teams working together to provide holistic, symptomatic relief to both patients’ physical and psychological complaints. I have been able to see the different ways in which the hospice is able to provide care and support to both patients and their families by participating in ward rounds, sitting in on Multi-Disciplinary Team meetings and by spending time in Wellbeing. By going on many drug rounds I have been able to familiarise myself with drug charts and with commonly used medications and their dosages in palliative care. I have also become adept at taking BMs and using hoists, along with various other contraptions!
It has been a privilege to work alongside all the staff on the In-Patient Unit, where the compassion and care they have for everyone is so strong. I have been able to both see and develop the qualities and skills needed for a career in medicine. Despite being in some incredibly challenging situations, and encountering death head on, carrying out last offices and washing bodies has helped me to respect death as a part of life. This has not only given me a great deal of insight into all aspects of palliative care, but has also helped me to grow and develop as an individual.
Now my perception of hospices has drastically changed. They are filled with so much love and happiness, and for this reason I know now that they are not a place of sadness, but a place of joy.
I know I haven’t been able to cure anyone, but I have helped them to improve their situations – if only a little bit. I feel so fortunate to have been a part of people’s lives, and it has been an honour to be able to make a difference.
Giulia’s Young Clinical Volunteer experience:
My work experience at St. Wilfrid’s Hospice as a Young Clinical Volunteer has been a wonderful experience and I feel privileged to have met and been allowed to help so many lovey people and interesting characters. When I started volunteering at the hospice I was a bit apprehensive as I didn’t know what to expect. However, when I got there I realised what a warm and welcoming place it is, all thanks to the staff, volunteer and patients on the In-Patients Unit.
Before starting there, I had thought a hospice provided end of life care, but I soon realised it also did symptom control and respite care. I have learnt many things from being a Young Clinical Volunteer such as taking blood sugar monitors, reading drug charts and feeding people, among other things. I’ve had some memorable moments such as being awarded 7 out of 10 by a patient for my ability to shave his beard.
My 6 months at the hospice has helped me decide that I would like to peruse a career in nursing. I would recommend this experience to anyone who is considering a career in a healthcare related subject. I would love to have the opportunity to volunteer again during the summer.