‘Our support extends to families as well as patients; that’s the heart of hospice care’
To mark the International Year of the Nurse, our senior staff nurse Julie Cuckson talks about how healthcare has developed over the years, and what makes hospice care so special.
Julie, 64, from New Longton, began working at St Catherine’s as part of the team of bank staff in 1996. She had initially wanted to be a nursery nurse like her mum, but says she’s glad her career went down a different route.
“It seemed everyone wanted to be a nursery nurse in those days,” she remembers. “There weren’t enough jobs to go around so my next option was to become a cadet nurse at 16. I trained at Ormskirk Hospital which was a good introduction to the job. We spent time on the wards serving teas and changing the flowers to get used to the environment, and as you progressed you spent more time with patients and continued your training in all areas, including medical records and physio work.
“After I married I moved to this area and worked at Mount Street private hospital in Preston on an NHS wing, and then Preston Royal Infirmary, as it was then, in female orthopaedics.
Then I moved to the new Royal Preston Hospital and did eight years in the orthopaedic trauma unit which was very busy.”
Mum-of-two Julie had always had hospices in her mind though, after visiting a relative at St Catherine’s.
“I just remember feeling that this was where I wanted to be. Care at St Catherine’s is about looking after the whole person, and the support extends to the family as well, which is how I felt nursing should be. That’s the heart of hospice care.”
She adds: “I wrote to see if there were any jobs going; you never really heard of jobs being advertised because once people started at St Catherine’s they never left – they stayed until they retired – so you had to wait for those rare opportunities to come up.”
Julie worked bank shifts at both the hospice and hospital until a permanent position came up at St Catherine’s.
“The ethos of hospice care is the same now as when I started, but there have been some significant changes and developments over the years too,” she explains. “I think one of the biggest changes is that we’re seeing people at a much earlier stage of their diagnosis than we used to. St Catherine’s used to be very much about end of life and caring for people in their final days. But now we see people much sooner as they come in for a short period of time for symptom management, before they return home.
“People might stay with us on two or three occasions throughout their journey, and if they do eventually come to St Catherine’s for end-of-life care, they know the nurses and they feel more comfortable and reassured about coming here.”
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