Join staff at one of Sheffield’s best known charities to celebrate Hospice Care Week
Hospice Care Week is the annual event which recognises and celebrates the hospice movement and care nationwide.
For St Luke’s Hospice in Sheffield, this year’s Care Week - running from October 4 to 8 - has a very special meaning as it coincides with the 50th anniversary of St Luke’s, which was the first hospice set up outside London.
When it opened the doors to its first patients half a century ago, a beloved institution was born.
Here members of the St Luke’s team explain why they enjoy being part of one of Sheffield’s best known and loved charities.
Head chef Gavin Duce said: “I’ve always told my team that whether it’s something as basic as baked beans on toast or something really extravagant, you must always remember that whatever you make, it could be the last thing that person ever eats so you have to put your heart and soul into everything.
“That rule applies to every meal we prepare for patients in our In Patient Centre and also for our Community Care packages, which are full of freshly produced soups, home made parkin, fresh smoothies and freshly squeezed orange juice.
“Anybody can train to be a chef in a restaurant but working in the St Luke’s kitchens is different because you are changing people’s lives really and whatever they want, we will do our very best to get it for them.
“We’ve got a great team of highly trained and skilled people in our kitchen and we have a great set of skills between us.
“We cater for staff and visitors too and then sometimes we will be asked if we can prepare food for something like a patient’s wedding and we really do want them to have a very special day so they’ll ask for a cake and think they’ll probably be getting a simple sponge but we’ll deliver a three-tier wedding cake and it’s worth the effort when you see how surprised and pleased they are.”
Marie Shaw, a bereavement counsellor working in the St Luke’s bereavement team, said: “My job is all about listening - you are listening to somebody’s story, a story of life before, during and after their loss.
“Building relationships with the clients is also very important, they have to trust in you and start to open up about their lives, telling you their things about the innermost depths of despair.
“There are different elements to the process of grief and bereavement but those elements come at different times for different people and part of our job is about helping people to realise that they are not on their own, that this is all part of the grieving process and we are there through the journey with them.
“We see people from different lifestyles, different cultures and different believes but that makes the work even more interesting because no two people are ever the same.
“Of course the conversations can be very sad and I am only human but that’s why we work as a team, so we can all support each other.
“The greatest thing for a counsellor is when you come to the end of the journey with the client and you get so much satisfaction from that, seeing how they have grown as a person and can go on to their new normal.”
Naureen Khan, St Luke’s engagement and equality officer, said: “I suppose the simplest way to describe what I do is to say that I tell the people of Sheffield that St Luke’s is there for them all.
“When I first started at St Luke’s I was specifically focusing on Sheffield’s South Asian communities but the role has now widened to cover many different communities and different groups.
“People who don’t know much about how a hospice works can think that our services are quite expensive and part of my job is explaining how everything we deliver is free.
“I enjoy meeting new people and new cultures, learning about their lives and how we can help to make changes for them and take away the worry and care of terminal illness.
“It gives me a real sense of satisfaction, knowing that I am making a positive change in somebody’s life.
“It’s really rewarding too to know that more families from different communities are using our services, that they feel they can trust us.”
David Jones, a charge nurse in the St Luke’s community team, said: “I spent 10 years in critical care mainly on a cardiothoracic unit and during my time I realised that not all patients recover and that when death occurs it is often very traumatic with families not having time to prepare.
“I now work in the St Luke’s integrated community team, supporting patients who are being cared for in their own homes across Sheffield - somewhere most of us would choose to be when unwell.
“During the pandemic, more people wanted to be cared for at home so our team has been busier than ever supporting patients and their families and carers as much as we possibly can.
“The role here is very dynamic so satisfies my technical nursing mind with complex symptom management as well as the softer side of looking after a patient’s head and heart.
“I have now qualified as a non-medical prescriber too which allows me to prescribe in the same way that a GP would.
“Despite the community team working on our own in people’s homes we don’t consider ourselves solo workers so the role is very much being part of a team.
“However, there is still room for individualised approaches to each patient’s care plan. Each day is different and I love the feeling of not really knowing who I will meet each day.
“I’m proud to be a part of the whole St Luke’s team who are genuinely motivated to do the best for patients who have precious time to live and will pull out all the stops to get the patient and their families what they need.”
Robyn Smith, a junior sister in the St Luke’s in patient centre, said: “When I first qualified as a nurse I worked at the Hallamshire Hospital respiratory unit and on the cystic fibrosis ward and then at Weston Park.
“All the time I was doing that, though, I knew that I was interested in palliative care so I moved to St Luke’s.
“To me, this is the sort of nursing I always wanted to do, getting to spend much more time with the patients, getting to know them and getting to know their families too.
“I have had people say working in this area must take it out of you but I’ve never really thought about it that way.
“Obviously we are not just about end of life care - we also look at symptom management and help with pain control and because you’re working with patients that much more closely, you get to know them, you get to know their personalities.
“Don’t get me wrong - of course there are some sad days and it can be very trying but I feel it is a privilege to look after these people.
“To be honest, I couldn’t see myself working in any other area now because this is the work that I enjoy.”