When I was newly qualified my very first nursing job was on a children’s ward in Poole Hospital which I loved. I very soon become a full-time paediatric nurse. I was also a cystic fibrosis community nurse and a general community nurse - I loved the combination of working in the community, particularly with children.
It was while I was working at Poole Hospital that I met Julia Perks, the nurse who was to be the inspiration behind Julia’s House. In those days if you had a very poorly child and needed help there was only once place you could get any help – at hospital.
Julia worked as a community nurse and always felt very frustrated that there wasn’t the support for parents really struggling to cope alone and at home. They could not get the medical or emotional help they needed, let alone a break.
Julia was a very inspirational and determined lady. Little did I realise years later I would be working for the charity she inspired.
I had various roles working as a community nurse, including supporting under-fives with complex health needs but always felt very time constricted. I didn’t feel I could give them enough.
All that changed after I went along to an open day for nursing professionals at Julia’s House. It was one of those inspirational moments when I realised that this was what I wanted to do – and I haven’t looked back.
It has been a really brilliant move for me. I have learnt to slow down, to be able to give families the time they need and through giving that time really come to know who they are and what they need from Julia’s House.
The lovely part is that because I was already nursing in the community as part of the health visitors team and had worked on the wards for a long time, lots of the families already knew me. I have been able to build on those relationships.
We are so much more than nurses, we offer support in so many ways. I helped a mum who was struggling with some forms she needed to fill in. She was so stressed she just couldn’t cope with the forms on top of everything else she was battling with. Little things like that make a big difference to how families cope.
My job also includes building relationships with hospitals and giving families the confidence to have their child at home when they are near the end of their life. With the Julia’s House team behind them they are empowered to make choices like that.
When you are nursing a very sick child in the NHS no matter how well you have come to know that child, know that family, your contact with the family ends with that child’s death. As a Julia’s House nurse you know you can go back to that family and carry on supporting them, the mum, dad, the children to help them get back on their feet.
Our commitment to a family doesn’t end with the death of their child.
Anyone thinking of becoming a paediatric nurse or 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.
"It is such a completely different way of working. A great team atmosphere, good training and the feeling you are part of something much bigger, really making a substantial difference to the everyday lives of families"