Each month we are profiling one of our fantastic nurses to celebrate International Year of the Nurse and Midwife 2020. This year is an opportunity to say thank you to the professions; to showcase their diverse talents and expertise; and to promote nursing and midwifery as careers with a great deal to offer.
This month, meet Fiona Thompson, one of our Lymphoedema Specialist Nurses:
Tell us about your current role…
I qualified as a registered general nurse in 1987. I had always been drawn to palliative care and had taken a keen interest in the opening of St Oswald’s in 1986. I was therefore delighted to be offered a position on the Inpatient Unit in 1987, where I worked for ten very happy years, six of which I held a position as one of the team leaders.
In May 1997 I moved to work in our Outpatient Unit; although we were carrying out different clinical treatments and procedures, much of our work was focused on caring for lymphoedema patients. The Lymphoedema Unit has since expanded and developed significantly over the years and is now a fully-fledged successful service in its own right. Following specific training in lymphoedema/oedema management, I now work as a lymphoedema specialist alongside a fantastic team.
In November 2020 I will have worked for the hospice for 33 years, and consider myself very fortunate to have worked for such a wonderful organisation for so long in different capacities.
Tell us about a typical day…
After starting with handover meetings and updates from various teams across the Hospice, our Outpatient clinics begin for the day.
As a lymphoedema specialist, my role is varied. We see patients of all ages, with different causes and types of swelling, and our care is not just provided within the Outpatient Suite. We also treat patients on our Inpatient Unit, in Outreach Clinics in the community, and at patient homes, hospitals and nursing homes.
On a typical day, I can undertake new patient assessments, review existing patients, bandage limbs, carry out lymphoedema massages, prescribe garments and provide advice face-to-face or on the phone to patients and healthcare professionals. I love the wide-ranging nature of my work and feel so blessed to be working with such a fantastic, talented and committed team.
Tell us why nursing, as a career, is rewarding…
I’ve been so fortunate to work in several roles in my hospice career, and have found throughout that it’s the small things you do every day as a nurse that contribute to the biggest differences.
If lymphoedema isn’t treated effectively, it can lead to reduced mobility and function and impact on patients emotionally and socially. Within my role, I provide patients with the knowledge and skills they need so they feel supported to manage their condition. I also care for patients with oedema in advanced disease, which can be such a distressing and uncomfortable symptom.
Whether caring for palliative or non-palliative patients, knowing that the work I do has helped towards comfort and improving a patient’s quality of life is hugely rewarding.
Recently the son of a former patient got in touch, who remembered the involvement I had with his father’s care 30 years ago. This meant so much to me. Even though it was so long ago, I remembered exactly who he was and his family. He drew me a picture, which I still have now. In his message, he said “The hospice staff made such a difficult time so much easier for me. I'm now 38 and to this day I've never forgotten the kindness shown and without the support I think I could have been a completely different person today.”
It’s wonderful to know that hospice care, compassion and support for patients and their families can have such a lasting impact. I was delighted to read that message and felt incredibly proud, honoured and privileged.
What would you say to someone considering a career in nursing in a Hospice?
Working in a hospice can be emotionally difficult at times. However, working as part of a multi-disciplinary team to provide holistic care and support, helping to improve patients’ symptoms and the quality of life for them and their families, is a richly rewarding experience. You really do feel that you are making a positive difference.
Hospice care is not just about the end of life, but it’s about helping to make a patient feel as comfortable as possible, respecting their individual needs and wishes, and helping them to live and enjoy the life they have left with quality and dignity. That’s a wonderful endeavour to be part of.
As a nurse, a hospice setting provides many opportunities for varied roles, and allows you to develop your skills in invaluable ways. I’ve been privileged to work with so many gifted colleagues over the years: everyone is highly supportive, and we learn so much from each other. During the years I’ve worked at St Oswald’s, there have been many advances in the field of palliative care. Throughout, the Hospice has provided excellent training, support and opportunities for professional growth.
Since joining the Hospice in 1987, I’ve had the most fulfilling and rewarding career. It’s a privilege to work in this dedicated and amazing team. I would encourage anyone considering a career in specialist palliative and hospice care to embrace it.
It couldn’t be more timely that the World Health Organization designated 2020 as the International Year of the Nurse and the Midwife. The courageous work of nurses and other healthcare workers in the face of Coronavirus does honour to the Year of the Nurse and Midwife 2020 and the 200th anniversary of Florence Nightingale’s birth.
Find out more about the Year of the Nurse and Midwife here.