To write this post about the Community Nurse Specialist (CNS) service at St Peter’s Hospice I checked the hospice website to see what they say. I don’t actually think I can improve on what it says so I will just write about my own experiences and let you read about the service here
By ‘my own experiences’ I am pleased to say that I don’t mean as a patient, but as an administrator. When a patient is told that their medical condition is ‘life-limiting’ (used to be referred to as ‘terminal’) it doesn’t necessarily mean that death is imminent. They could have days, weeks, months or years to live and it is the job of everyone in society to make sure that their remaining time, however long, is lived well, with dignity, quality and comfort.
Not everyone with a life-limiting illness is referred for hospice care. We have the most amazing NHS in the world which can look after the needs of most people. But some are more complex; perhaps the GP can’t get the pain relief medication quite right, the family needs extra support or other medical conditions are making it difficult to treat the patient. That’s when St Peter’s Hospice comes in.
After a telephone triage to see if St Peter’s Hospice can help, most referrals are then passed to the CNS team. There is a team of 26 nurses, some full- and some part-time who cover the whole of the SPH area. They visit patients and their families in their homes and provide support as needed. This comes in many forms – signposting to other agencies such as benefits, referrals to other services and liaising with other medical practitioners. They advise GPs and District Nurses and provide a listening ear to the patient. Only a small number of patients are ever admitted into the in-patient unit – most stay at home.
I sometimes work as an administrator for the CNS team. All telephone calls go through the administrators and it’s a VERY busy job. It gives me a real and unique insight into how much these amazing individuals mean to their patients. Phone calls are immensely varied in subject and in difficulty. Many patients or their carers are distressed as something has happened and they urgently need advice, some need to report changes in their condition or treatment, some need help with contacting other agencies and others need a sympathetic listening ear.
Living with a life-limiting illness, either of your own or of someone you love, must be frightening, stressful and bewildering. I am so proud to have a tiny role in assisting the wonderful professional Community Nurse Specialists to make people’s lives that little bit easier.
This post was written completely on my own without any input from the medical professionals. I hope I have done the nurses and St Peter’s Hospice justice.