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The working life of a hospice domestic team

Author: Mary Cleary and Tracy Cachia
28 July 2017

Mary Cleary and Tracy Cachia are Domestic Supervisors at St Joseph’s Hospice in Hackney, east London. Here they tell us about the variety of roles the domestic team handle, from sweeping floors, to doing the staff rota, to keeping patients’ spirits up.

If you thought our domestic team spent all day mopping floors, you would be very wrong. Together we lead the St Joseph’s team of domestic staff and porters, an integral part of the hospice. We keep the hospice spotlessly clean, but our role involves more than just that.

We make tea, coffee and breakfast for the patients and when we added it up we realised we make around 1,750 cups of tea every week! We also make sure they always have a fresh jug of water and their rooms are tidy. Stopping for a chat every once in a while makes patients and families feel more comfortable and at ease during their stay.

Patients are our first priority, so it is important that our team are compassionate and caring. This is part of St Joseph’s ethos but it is also just part of being a human being.

You learn from experience. Many years ago I was cleaning a patient’s room and asked quite innocently how they were, only to be told “How do you think I am? If I was OK I would not be in here would I?” It was quite humbling and a good lesson in the sensitivities of hospice care.

We also manage the porters, who have an essential role at the hospice. Most of them have been at St Joseph’s for many years, racking up nearly 80 years’ service between all five of them.

An important part of the porters’ role is supporting the laundry service. We have 42 beds in the hospice and they need to be changed every day; sometimes more than once.

It does not stop there; our porters also keep the communal areas clean and tidy. They deliver food and drink to the wards twice a day and distribute stationery and cleaning supplies throughout the hospice. They also have the important task of moving donated items from reception to the basement so that our army of volunteers can begin to sort it. 

They work closely with the nursing staff on the wards, helping patients to move around the building safely and comfortably. They will even take patients out into the garden in their beds so they can enjoy some fresh air.

We know how valuable our team is; the hospice quite simply could not function without us. We worked out that the domestic team walks around 63,000 miles each year at the hospice, that is the equivalent of two and a half times round the globe, we are always on the go!

We finish at 3:30 pm each day but invariably someone will call just as we are about to go home to say ‘We’ve just had some flowers delivered, can you put them in vases?’ We do that before we go home and deliver them to the wards. It is a lovely part of our job.

Between us we have worked at St Joseph’s Hospice for 26 years and we know this place inside out. We love St Joseph’s and we are proud of the service we provide.

For more information visit St Joseph’s Hospice

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