Working night shifts in a nursing home, Kathy Hill shares with Nursing in Practice what her role as a staff nurse caring for elderly residents with complex health needs involves.
Kathy provides a lot of social care as well as administers medications, PEG tube, tracheostomy and palliative care. Despite coming into nursing quite by accident when a planned work placement didn’t take place, Kathy hasn’t looked back and enjoys nothing more than getting to know her residents, their stories and history before coming to the home.
Jenny Chou: What inspired you to become a nurse?
Kathy Hill: I came into nursing quite by accident. The graphic design company I had put down to do work experience at pulled out last minute, leaving a private residential home as the only available placement. From the first day there, I loved it, and following my placement, they offered me a job. I spent three happy years there and still remember the residents I helped care for. Then the Matron there suggested I do my nurse training and the rest, as they say, is history!
JC: How do you start your day every morning?
KH: I am allergic to mornings, which makes working nights so much nicer! A natural night owl, I stay up late and wake up late, and always start the day with a nice hot drink, feed the pooch and go for a walk.
JC: How do you relax and unwind after a day at work?
KH:It is very important to unwind after work as nursing can be emotionally and physically tiring. After a stressful shift, there is nothing better than coming home to an excited dog and going for a walk... I am a recent Whovian too, and find a dose of Mr Tennant quite theraputic! Hours at a time are also lost to fabric and wool as I sew and crochet for my jointly run craft business Hound of Happiness.
JC:What do you most enjoy about your job?
KH:I feel very privileged to be a part of our elderly residents’ lives. At a time, which can be very challenging and stressful, we as strangers are accepted into their private, personal lives. What I love most about my job is getting to know my residents, their stories and history before coming to the home, finding out about their personal likes/dislikes and accommodating those to hopefully make their stay comfortable and dignified.
JC: What is the most challenging part of your day?
KH: Ironically the most enjoyable part of my job, is also what makes it the most challenging. Inevitably the people I care for will eventually deteriorate and will require end of life care. Having gotten to know people so well, seeing them decline and pass away is extremely sad. It is reassuring to know though, that knowing them, providing good quality care and ensuring residents are at peace and comfortable in their surroundings has resulted in a 'good death'.
JC: Do you get any face-to-face time with patients?
KH: I am lucky to have regular contact with my residents and feel this is vital for me to provide good quality care for them.
JC: Do you think nursing is a more or less respected profession than it was in the past?
KH: I feel that there has been a lot of negative press and situations regarding not only nursing, but healthcare in general. There is no easy solutions to the problems facing healthcare in the UK, however I would never dissuade anyone interested in a nursing career, for once you have completed training, the options are infinite. I have worked in medicine, training & development and overseas as a nurse volunteer all of which have resulted in excellent life experience that I can apply to my role today and in the future. There is also a stigma surrounding nursing home work, that 'any nurse' can do it and that it is an easy, possibly dead-end job. I find this incredibly frustrating; with an ageing population, elderly care needs to be at the forefront. In the future, I would love to see more qualified, quality staff in nursing homes. Consequently, staff with more training and recognition will then lead to improved services.
JC: Where do you see yourself in five year's time?
KH: Two areas of nursing have always appealed to me, elderly care and community care. At some point in the future I would like to move into community care nursing.
Are you surprised by how much you get done in a day?
To be honest, I've not really thought about it – what needs to be done, gets done and if there's 5 minutes spare for an extra cuppa or a chat with my residents, that is an extra good shift!
JC: What's the secret to being a really good nurse?
KH: Empathy. If you have oodles of it and really feel for what your patients are going through, then treat them as you yourself would like to be treated in the same situation – you are well on your way. My calmness and confidence are traits that people have commented on before – no matter how stressful the day is I try not to portray this to my residents – they need to see that I care, have time to listen and that I am competent to deal with any issues that may occur.
Jenny Chou is the Research and Features Editor for primary care at Campden Health media, working on Nursing in Practice, Management in Practice and The Commissioning Review
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