I helped out at a recent Julia’s House hospice open day, showing visitors around. People are always so surprised by how normal Julia’s House is. It does not smell or look like a hospital. It isn’t full of medical equipment and bleeping machines, it’s just a bright, happy house.
It is so inspiring to meet supporters and to remind ourselves that the community is funding all this for our families. Talking to people you realise just how loved Julia’s House is – and that’s why it is so wonderful to work for a local charity.
When I first came to Julia’s House the hospice was not even open. I worked out of our little Broadstone office above the shop. That was right at the beginning when we didn’t know how much we would be able to do for families. I cannot believe how the charity has grown, how many more families we are able to reach. The support we can offer them now is truly amazing.
I always wanted to work with children with complex medical needs. Julia’s House is a very different kind of nursing. There is the time to build real relationships with families. On a hospital ward you are dipping in and out of a family’s life. When they leave, you never see them again.
I mainly work in the community, which I love. No two days are the same. I could be visiting a mum who is under incredible pressure, getting only a few hours’ sleep a night. She is shattered and would have nowhere to turn if it wasn’t for the support of Julia’s House.
Another afternoon I might be taking a vulnerable teenager out for a break from home, to go to McDonalds or to the cinema. Some one-to-one time away from siblings and pressures, a chance to chat and have a bit of downtime.
It is working with the whole family that makes this such a rewarding job. We are medical professionals, but we are also a friendly face, part of that family’s life.
Of course there are times when I go home and worry about the families I support. They might be going through particularly hard times and it is only natural to feel involved. That’s when I am grateful to be part of such a supportive team. The nurses and carers really look out for each other.
We have to stay strong for families. It is natural to show emotion, be affected by other people’s emotion but we have to hold it together. We are there to support the families, not make them feel like they have to support us!
People often ask how I could do a job that can involve dealing with the death of a child, but actually it is an amazing privilege to be looking after a child at the end. Spending time helping them to feel comfortable, being there for mum and dad at such a huge moment in their lives.
Away from the technology of a hospital and in the quiet peaceful surroundings of the hospice makes it a much more comforting experience for the family. And when everyone at Julia’s House is pulling together to make those last few days and hours as precious as possible, that’s when I think how fantastically lucky I am to be part of such a brilliant team.