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The working life of a community nurse

Author: Chris Senter
09 June 2017

Chris Senter, a community nurse for Weldmar Hospicecare, describes her work in the community.

I currently work in the north of Dorset in Blandford Forum, located within the Community Hospital, and cover some of the surrounding villages.

Most often, initial contact with Weldmar Hospicecare is through the Weldmar Community Nurses. However, patients or families may have had experience of meeting other members of our team, such as our doctors, physiotherapists, occupational therapists, one of our family support workers or have experienced our day care services or been to our inpatient unit at Joseph Weld Hospice.

Referrals to Weldmar are most often made by GPs, consultants or specialist nurses. Patients and relatives are also able to self-refer, following discussion with their GP.

Some patients and families are a little apprehensive about meeting one of the Weldmar community nurses due to our links to the hospice, often feeling quite vulnerable and a little unsure about what to expect.

Meeting another professional can often feel quite daunting. I hope that my friendly and calming personality puts patients and their families at ease. I am honest, warm and caring and try to find something in the day to raise a smile.  Yet, as a specialist and professional, I bring the knowledge and skill which inspires confidence and reassurance, and work closely with the primary care team who are already known to the patient.

  • Each and every day as a Weldmar community nurse is different, and can include:
  • visiting patients in their own home, or on the ward in a community hospital
  • undertaking new initial assessments, meeting a patient and family for the first time
  • following up a recent visit to see if symptoms have improved or to sort out the latest problem or concern
  • liaising with the patient’s GP, ensuring medication is prescribed and available
  • requesting a Citizens Advice adviser to contact a patient. This could be to help sort out benefit queries, or complete ‘NHS continuing healthcare’ forms to obtain care in the community
  • requesting volunteers as befrienders or to help to get a patient to an appointment, due to difficulties with transport
  • responding to telephone calls, from patients and other professionals

My working day should be 9am until 5pm from Monday to Friday, but fluctuates depending on need. A rota for weekend cover includes all the Weldmar Community Nurses, ensuring a specialist palliative care service across Dorset, seven days a week.

Each day I meet patients and families coping with illness. Some are recovering from surgery, some have had chemotherapy or radiotherapy.  Some are coping with disease which is not responding to treatment. The knowledge that disease is advancing and has become life-limiting can be devastating. My role, as part of the team, is to help patients gain some control of the uncertainty that illness brings, to make sense of what is happening and to help them plan ahead – dealing with the unknown.

I help the patient and their families with their wishes in relation to future care, and provide the support and guidance those patients and families need to cope. Everyone is an individual and should be considered with the respect and dignity they deserve and expect.

Most days, my colleagues and I work closely with GPs, district nurses and primary health care teams to provide help to support patients in their own homes. This can include giving advice regarding pain and managing symptoms, helping to organise equipment that maintain a patient’s independence in their own home, requesting a blue parking permit or having in-depth conversations relating to advance care planning  and what the patient might expect in relation to on-going support at the end of life.

Each day I have the privilege of meeting new patients who are facing new challenges, which can be unpredictable, yet rewarding, as one observes the patient regain some control and vision of their situation.

As a specialist nurse, I am constantly keeping myself updated, and am involved with passing on that education and empowering others to improve their palliative care skills and knowledge. This could be by attending regular meetings to share information and ensuring good communication – providing the opportunity to avoid duplication but ensure patients advance care needs are met and families are being supported.

Often I am asked if I find this profession difficult, helping patients and families at one of the most emotional and life changing times of their lives. To this I reply: “I love the job I do. It is a privilege to share this precious time with patients and families, as I get to know them and they begin to know me.”

The determination, courage and resilience that patients and families demonstrate daily is amazing. Life is for living for as long as we all have it. We should appreciate the moments, capture the memories we share, and make each day as good as it can be.

For more information visit Weldmar Hospicecare

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