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“Why I became a palliative care nurse”

Author: Leila Hawkins
11 May 2017

It’s International Nurses Day tomorrow. Here Nurse Consultant Sheila Dawson explains why she decided to work in palliative care, a field she has been in for over 11 years. A relative late-comer to nursing, she began working as a health care assistant in a nursing home in her late 30s.

“After I had my family I knew I wanted to do something related to health care. Being a health care assistant gave me the impetus to apply for a three-year nursing degree after which I worked on hospital medical wards and in community hospitals before becoming a district nurse.”

“But even then I knew that I wanted to move into palliative care as it allows you to work more on a one-to-one basis with patients, and you also use a lot of basic nursing skills which can sometimes be forgotten in other high pressure nursing environments.”

After passing her nurse prescribing and clinical skills degree course, Sheila began working as a MacMillan Nurse enabling her to offer more continuity of care to her patients.

She said:

“I saw the advert for a nurse consultant for St Teresa’s Hospice in Darlington, and I knew that it would be a good way of gaining promotion without losing direct clinical input with patients, something than can happen in nursing managerial positions.”

“When I first came here, it took me a while to find my feet as it was a completely new role but St Teresa’s is an amazing place and I soon settled in.”

Sheila now spends her time working within St Teresa’s new inpatient unit as well as with cancer patients within the community.

She explained:

“The most rewarding part of my job is ensuring patients have the correct balance of medication to settle their symptoms and give them a quality of life that can enable them to be treated in their own homes if they wish.”

“I wouldn’t change anything about my career. I’m very lucky to be able to work in such a supportive environment.”

Sheila recently delivered a key speech to experts in palliative care at the Association of Prescribers Conference in Regent’s Park, London. The audience included pharmacists, non-medical prescribers, MacMillan Nurses, physiotherapists, and GPs on effective nurse prescribing in end of life care.

Commenting on the experience, she said:

“This was the first time that I had been asked to present at a conference since I joined St Teresa’s team four years ago. I felt slightly apprehensive, but it was good experience and I was pleased with myself for doing it.”

For more information visit St Teresa’s Hospice

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