Maureen has worked at St Wilfrid’s Hospice since 1998 and has recently taken the decision to retire from her position on the In Patient unit. Having worked for St Wilfrid’s for such a long time we wanted to ask her how things have changed, what memories she has of her time on the ward and what she’ll miss most.

‘20 years? It doesn’t feel like that long – It’s gone so quick! Time flies when you’re having fun they say and I’ve enjoyed my work here.

I still feel like the new girl. There is always something new to learn and things change so fast and you have to keep up with those changes and adapt. But genuine compassionate care is the hallmark of the place and that hasn’t changed. St Wilfrid’s seems to attract the kind of people that can deliver that. In my 20 years here people have come and gone but they all have that capacity to care not only for patients but each other.

You need that support to do this job. I’m still in touch with people I worked with over 10 years ago and I have loved working with all of them, past and present. It’s not just the doctors and nurses. All the unsung heroes who work behind the scenes from cleaners to managers and especially our volunteers. Throughout the years they’ve given us all so much support that we feel like a huge family, sometimes with all the ups and downs that entails. Whatever happens you never forget the kindness to each other and the willingness to help – you can see how much the patients benefit from that attitude.

It’s all grown and developed in so many ways during the last two decades. Twenty years ago we were such a simple organisation – just a matron, a medical director and an ambitious board of trustees. Volunteers raised funds, there was no CEO pointing us in a direction together. It was a flat hierarchy of one – the matron, Barbara Cameron! She was a wonderful woman and kept us all tight as a drum when it was a smaller organisation, managing everything from cleaners, catering, building maintenance, patient admissions and all – not to mention the nurses. She even chipped in on the ward when we were very shorthanded. We work at such a huge scale now that it wouldn’t be possible to do all that with one person anymore!

The old hospice at Mill Gap Road was a true character – cosy, homely but not built for everything we needed. It’s night and day from what we’re able to do in the new hospice and how many more people we can take care of. I’ve got so many fond memories of both places.

The support we can give people since we moved has been the biggest development in my time at St Wilfrid’s. I began in 1998 and there was no Hospice at Home team, so we looked after people in a day centre and small In Patient unit. That community support run from the hospice didn’t exist so we couldn’t really help patients who had chosen to die at their own home, so unfortunately it wasn’t an option for people. The Nurse Line has been a revelation since we began that. So many people say it’s made them feel safe in their own homes and given them independence when making their decision to get treatment at home. Beforehand we often were in a difficult situation as people would have to call our ward directly – that would mean that the staff there might be overstretched!

Even things such as computerisation and the technology boom mean we can now share information across departments and teams so quickly when it’s needed. It can be kept confidential and safe but also easy to access for the right people. When I began nursing we were logging things in notebooks, reading medical journals and having to use the phone book to look up some patients! The last twenty years the boom in technology means our hard work goes further – across the community you can feel how much the patients and families are supported thanks to that working for us. Ultimately it means they can choose where they’d like to be treated. At home or in the hospice - near their family. That makes a massive difference.

When you tell people your job they nearly always say ‘I don’t know how you do that’. I’ve always replied that we just do it for the chocolate! Half the struggle of being a hospice nurse is dodging those extra calories being offered by everyone visiting – they all seem to disappear when I’m on duty! It’s a problem for your weight but it’s a sign of how much people respect and appreciate the job we’re all doing – sometimes it’s tough for people to say it, so giving is the only way they can express it.

That appreciation and gratitude kept me going. It can be a very sad job sometimes and there are some moments you can’t help or change things as much as you want. You’re witnessing something very intimate; the sadness when someone dies, the humbling courage it takes for families and friends to carry on. You go home and you take that back with you. It helps you put your life in perspective and realise the most important things and what isn’t worth worrying about. Even though as a nurse you may feel powerless about what’s happening and you don’t think you have done much, it helps to know that somehow what we did as a team has made a difference. It gives you a job satisfaction that you I don’t think could ever be beaten!

Thank you to everyone who has helped me, supported me and been there over the last twenty years. You’ve all made me hugely proud to be a St Wilfrid’s nurse and you’ll be glad to know that there’ll be a few more chocs now I’ve retired!'