This month Julia's House Senior Carer Claire Dorling takes us with her on a journey through a busy week at Julia's House...
There’s no such thing as a typical day when you’re a Julia’s House carer - every day is different and any day can change as quick as lightening! Ours is not a Monday to Friday 9-5 job - it’s moving, magical and always memorable. Here’s what I got up to in one unique week.
Today started with some really sad news - a child I used to care for had died. Even though that sounds like an occupational hazard for someone working for a children’s hospice, it really isn’t something that happens all the time. It was sudden and a shock for everyone at Julia’s House but I feel blessed to be part of a really fantastic team where we all support each other and rally together in a united goal - to keep providing amazing care for the children who are still with us.
Despite the gloomy beginning, Monday ended up being a lovely day of giggles and smiles as the hospice filled with the laughter and play of little ones enjoying a pre-school session. Afterwards I jumped in the car to drive out to a family home for a community session or ‘sit’ as we call them. The boy I was caring for loves cars so, as the evenings are getting lighter, we decided to pop out for a walk around lots of busy, noisy roads. Sounds awful, but it meant the world to this young lad - he was so excited! He actually got quite cross when I had to go. My day finished at 7pm.
A day off - a chance for me to catch up on my chores!
A 10am start with lots of us getting together for some vital training that we have every year - manual handling. Sounds quite dull doesn’t it but it is really important for us to know how to lift and support the children we care for. They might be in wheelchairs or a little unsteady on their feet. This training isn’t just about protecting us from injury but also about protecting fragile bodies to keep children safe and comfortable.
Training finished at 2pm so I had a break before heading out at 4pm for a special date with a young lady who was about to turn 18 - the age at which she will leave Julia’s House and move into adult care. This was to be her last community sit. I felt quite emotional because I have been her carer for many years - it has been a privilege to share precious times with her and her family. She is a beautiful smiley girl and I wanted this last time to be ultra special. We gave her a relaxing bath and hair wash followed by a lovely head and hand massage. At 6pm it was time to say our goodbyes and wish her luck. I will miss her.
Today's care session begins at 9.15am and is another lovely community session, this time taking a little girl out for the morning. She is just learning to walk so i decided to encourage her to stretch her legs by taking her to the park. She adored the freedom of being out of her buggy and in the fresh air. The sit finished at 11.15 when I headed back to the hospice to catch-up on some paperwork.
As a senior care team member I have several roles within the charity aside from care sessions. For instance, I am involved in a youth club we set-up last year to give older children and teens a chance to be more independent - and more sociable. It’s run once a month at the hospice and the youngsters set their own agenda - we’re just there to help their dreams and schemes happen! We had a meeting to reflect on how it’s all going - like all teenagers the group are always keen to offer feedback!
My day should have ended with an evening care session in the community again, but this time taking a child to a swimming lesson from 7 to 9pm. This got cancelled at the last minute giving me an unexpected free evening which was a bit of a treat!
Another day of last minute change. I was due to host a youth club session from 4.30-9.30pm but this was cancelled when we were alerted that a family might need to use our Mermaid Suite as their child was nearing the end of their life. Although hospice life needs to and does carry on in these situations, clearly a boisterous youth club session needs to be nudged into a different week.
Another day off and I'm out enhjoying some rare sunshine!
Sunday dawns on another hospice session - this time I am caring for a young lady I have only known a short while. The challenge for me is learning to understand her needs to ensure we both have a fun day together. I soon discover she has a wicked sense of humour! She is cheeky and seems to have a permanent smile on her face which makes for a cheerful session. Even though she is unable to talk she is amazing at communicating what she wants. It adds up to lots of giggles a game of pool, a chill-out in the sensory room and an artwork session using things we found in the hospice garden. One of those days I love so much.
Overall it’s been a bit of a rollercoaster of a week but ends on a real emotional high, going home with a warm, fuzzy feeling inside.
Anyone thinking of becoming a paediatric nurse of changing jobs should not be put off by the idea that Julia’s House is a scary place. Coping with the death of a child is the part of the job everyone focuses on and yet there is so, so much more to being a Julia’s House nurse.