Senior Team Nurse Neil talks about his journey to Julia’s House – and his dream job supporting families in Wiltshire…
Recently I was both privileged and saddened to be part of a small team of nurses providing bespoke, family-centred end-of-life care for a 16-year-old boy.
He wanted to leave hospital and go home and Julia’s House swung into action putting the emergency care in place to make this last wish a reality.
The night that he died, in the early hours of the morning I was there with his family and had time to reflect on life, my profession and the wonderful organisation that I have the fortune to be involved with.
I remember thinking about how had my career changed so remarkably, my training and experiences that had led me to be part of Julia’s House.
I haven’t always been a nurse – indeed I have had an interesting and varied career.
I started out in 2003 as a computer programmer, and as anyone who has a fascination with coding will know, I didn’t have much of a social life!
I jacked all this in and set off with a 15kg backpack to tour South East Asia, spending time in Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam and Thailand. I had no real plans aside from managing to live off a few dollars a day so that I could eek out my trip to last at least a year.
During this time I did a little volunteering, working with people, listening and just absorbing a different way of life. I attempted to teach English to a class of Buddhist Monks, helping with maintenance and day to day jobs at the local temple and village, replacing a water pipe, just generally anything.
There was a real feel-good factor to these jobs - doing something interesting and interacting with people, who were kind and considerate. So when I finally came home I decided to embark on the one career that epitomises and embraced that ethos - car sales!
Who would have thought that selling cars would lead me to get involved with Julia’s House and – ultimately - to the fulfilling, wonderful career I have now.
It was pure chance that I was the first out onto the forecourt when Martin Edwards, chief executive of Julia’s House came by one day looking for a second hand car. A few friendly hours of negotiation and a handshake later and he had a Toyota and I had his business card.
He had told me a bit about Julia’s House and it sounded like a fantastic charity - so much so that less than six months later I was volunteering for the Family Support Team as a sibling worker.
My first outing was a very wet and wild trip to Monkey World followed by the first of many family winter party – dressed as a penguin, in a bin liner with a brightly coloured bill!
I began to understand more about the organisation and how important is was and felt I really wanted to gain some experience of what the carer and nursing role entailed. I was greatly encouraged by a senior nurse who ended up being a mentor to me.
I was really lucky to be invited into a hospice session, where I was so warmly welcomed and included and enjoyed myself so much that was it - I finally got what Julia’s house was all about and wanted to be part of it.
There was only one way this was going to happen – I went off to university to study paediatric nursing and after graduation took further training to gain my public health nursing registration.
I didn’t lose touch with Julia’s House during these four years but went from being a volunteer to becoming a bank care team member – a great way to build experience and be part of the team ahead of finishing my studies. Although not yet fully qualified I could help out with session.
Once I qualified I became a bank nurse and within two years – having built up the necessary practical experience in nursing and community working - I took up my first full-time position as a team nurse in Wiltshire.
These were exciting times and I was delighted to be part of the team that was working towards the opening of the new Devizes hospice.
I have seen the service grow and develop and I have always been encouraged to work towards a senior role and I have found this support and the opportunities within the organisation match my enthusiasm and passion for the work.