Each year, the specialist team works hard to keep patients and families together at home this Christmas.
Clinical Nurse Specialist Suzanne Holt (pictured) describes some of the many things that can go into a typical day working for St Catherine’s Hospice in the community at Christmas time.
8.30am: There are eight nurses in the CNS team covering Chorley, Longridge, Preston and South Ribble – I cover central Preston, Bamber Bride and Walton-le-Dale. My day starts by either visiting a patient close to home, or coming to the hospice for a team briefing. We plan our days to ensure that we spend as much time with patients as possible, and less time on the road – this is particularly important at Christmas when demand for our service is high.
9am: If I’m seeing someone for the first time, I carry out an assessment with them to determine their care needs.
We take the time to understand their wishes and priorities, and work closely with doctors and district nurses.
It’s a privilege to visit people in their own homes because it gives us an understanding of their home and family life, which is so precious at this time of year. I’ll assess how often they need support and put together a care plan; this develops over time if someone’s clinical needs change.
Read about one of St Catherine's Hospice's patients here: Sheila happy to be at home for Christmas, thanks to St Catherine's Hospice
10.30am: I’ll move on to another patient’s house, and this could be a follow-up visit. Our aim is to make people feel as comfortable as possible at home, to avoid unnecessary hospital admissions. This involves working on things like pain and symptom management, managing side effects like fatigue, and nutrition – including some tips for how they might need to adjust their Christmas dinner. We can also arrange things like wheelchairs and home adaptation assessments to help people feel more independent.
11.30am: We visit all sorts of houses, from town centre terraces to farm houses in the back of beyond – I always make sure to have my wellies in the car, just in case!
We also visit people in care and nursing homes. My job is so varied and I meet people from all walks of life, which is what I love about the CNS role.
2pm: Christmas can be a very emotional time of year for people who are ill and their families – the CNS service is there to help cope with this as well as the physical symptoms. We might talk about memories of past Christmases and why they are so treasured – thinking about what steps we could take this year to recreate those special times.
4pm: Another key priority over the festive season is to ensure patients have enough medication to last them through the holiday period and we work with GPs and pharmacies to make sure this is the case.
We also take it in turns to man the advice line operated by St Catherine’s.
We get calls from GPs, district nurses, patients and family members about a range of issues. I think it’s reassuring for people to know there’s someone at the other end of the phone in between our visits.