Have you ever wondered what it’s like to work in a children’s hospice? We caught up with Mike who has been a nurse at Chestnut Tree House for five years
What made you want to work in a children’s hospice?
In my third year of study, I was lucky enough to get a placement in a children’s hospice in London and I loved it so much that when I graduated, I knew I wanted to continue caring for children with complex needs. I went on to get lots of experience working in places like Great Ormond Street and a rehabilitation centre for young people with disabilities but there was something special about children’s hospice care, and that was the path I chose to follow.
What does a nurse at a children’s hospice do?
The children and young people I care for at Chestnut Tree House all have life-limiting or life-threatening conditions, and are unlikely to reach adulthood. As a nurse I’m there to look after all their clinical needs such as medication and managing their pain, but also to help them have as much fun as possible.
I work closely with the Activities Team, and I might accompany them on a trip to the beach with a teenager who needs support with their ventilator, help manage a toddler’s symptoms while they play in the multi-sensory room, or take a poorly baby for a walk in the gardens so tired parents can get some rest. We offer short breaks, overnight stays, activity days and end-of-life care. So every day is different, and I love how diverse my job is.
What is the most rewarding part of your role?
Getting to know families and helping them create lasting memories is so rewarding, and this is particularly important when a child is nearing the end of their life. Families will often have bucket lists, and I try and help them to tick off as many things as possible in the time they have left together. This could be anything from helping a mum safely splash about with her baby in the pool for the first time, arranging a surprise visit from a Disney princess, or creating precious hand casts in clay for families to treasure.
There must be some sad moments. How do you cope?
Yes, some days can be emotional, especially at the end of life. But it’s also a privilege to be able to make that journey as comfortable as you can for that child and their family. The team here is really close, so we support each other and often we’ll go for a wander in the woodland walk or I’ll take some time to sit and reflect in the beautiful gardens.
What’s the biggest life lesson that you’ve learned working at Chestnut Tree House?
Children’s hospice care is all about making the most of short and precious lives. It has definitely taught me the importance of living my own life to the full and never putting anything off. Since working at Chestnut Tree House I am more positive, and I moan less!
To find out more about children’s hospice care, please visit www.chestnut.org.uk/blog
It costs over £4 million every year to provide all of Chestnut Tree House’s care services. Only a small proportion of this comes from central government, so it relies heavily on donations and fundraising.
Your support makes children’s hospice care possible.
To find out how you can support local children and young people who need hospice care, visit www.chestnut.org.uk