Latest News and Happenings at St Luke’s Plymouth. Follow our blog or sign up to our newsletter for our latest news.

You’re never too old to make new best friends – as Margaret Davies, Ena Powell and Mollie Hodges can all testify!

Strangers to each other when first admitted to our specialist unit in March, in a matter of days these lovely ladies in their 80s and 90s formed such a strong and joyous bond on the ward that they quickly became known to themselves – and us – as our very own Golden Girls. And, just as with the lead characters in the hit TV show of the 80s, the chemistry between them is sparkling.

While each of our terrific trio has been receiving St Luke’s care to help relieve their pain, they have found comfort that goes way beyond the physical, thanks to the empathy and affection between them – not to mention the infectious humour they share. All of which has not only lifted their spirits at a difficult time but brought reassurance to their families that they’re being looked after in a safe, supportive environment where there is more laughter than tears.

Mollie, from Peverell, said: “I came in not wanting any further treatment, and these ladies who I call best friends have convinced me to have it. For the nurses to know we would gel so well together, they must be telepathic!“

Margaret, a former teacher at Dunstone Primary School who lives in Elburton, said: “Never did I think a hospice could feel so heavenly. St Luke’s has taken the fear out of cancer – they’ve got all my treatment right and I’m no longer in pain, but it’s so much more than that. Thanks to the fantastic staff and Ena and Mollie, it’s been a happy time. There’s been so much laughter – they’ve had me in stitches!”

Ena, who has since returned to her home said: “I was apprehensive about coming into a hospice. I never thought I would make such incredible friendships. That moment of having the photo taken of us all together in the hospice grounds overlooking the sea is one I will cherish forever.”

Losing a loved one is always really difficult. We understand how important it is for you to be able to remember your lost loved one, whether they were cared for by St Luke’s or not, and we realise more than ever that when someone special has died, it is powerful and precious memories that bring comfort and help us continue to feel connected to them.

With this in mind, we would like to share a story with you about Scott, a volunteer and friend who played a huge part in our Fundraising Team and will forever be in our hearts.

We were first graced with Scott’s presence back in 2018 when he applied to become a volunteer within the Fundraising Team, after being diagnosed with terminal pancreatic cancer. His expertise and skills in sales and marketing made him the perfect candidate and a vital asset to our team. He threw himself into everything a hundred percent, particularly our Men’s Day Out event as he was very well connected within the brewing industry.

He was a joy to have around, telling stories and speaking so fondly in the office of his three girls, ‘Mrs Prideaux and the Pridettes’, Sarah and his two daughters Alex and Olivia.

Remembering Dad

“Dad’s volunteering at St Luke’s was his complete saviour. It gave him structure and the ability to help others, which in life was his ultimate mission. The role unintendedly was built for him, was flexible around his needs, gave him a focus and became a massive part of his life, which he lived to the full.

“He was always such an outgoing and sociable person who knew and remembered everyone. Wherever we were, he would always see somebody he knew – even abroad in Portugal, where he bumped into an old friend and insisted on having lunch together. He was so supportive and always wanted the best for us.

“We were used to hospital visits with Dad, but our world was turned upside down when he was admitted during the first lockdown last year. The support from the St Luke’s team who co-ordinated his treatment at the hospital was a real source of comfort to him, particularly when there were multiple departments involved. The doctors and nurses became both ours and Dad’s friends, and because visiting became challenging due to the pandemic, what we couldn’t provide was there from St Luke’s.

“Life’s just not as fun without Dad around. We really miss him – it’s like a light has gone out, but we find that talking about our memories together makes him still feel present in our lives.

“To us, St Luke’s isn’t just a charity looking after poorly people in a hospice. It’s about a community coming together, and our community went above and beyond.”

How you can get involved

This Spring, we would like to invite you to dedicate a sunflower in our virtual garden in memory of someone you’ve lost. Radiating cheer and symbolising longevity, we have chosen sunflowers as they capture the nature of the memories we treasure of the special people no longer with us – heart-warming, comforting and enduring.

Share your favourite picture or your sunniest story – all while knowing that you are helping us continue to provide our support to families in the community- now and in the future.

As a thank you for your donation, we will send you a packet of sunflower seeds so you can grow your own flowers as a symbol of remembrance. You can use the seeds from the beautiful flower to grow them year on year, and as you see them bloom in your garden, we hope you will recollect beautiful memories.

 

We are dedicated to looking after terminally ill people of all backgrounds, so we are piloting a scheme to enhance its end of life care for patients who have given service to their country in the armed forces.

The End of Life Military Compassion project recently launched by St Luke’s will help ensure the community is a kinder place for both current military personnel and veterans whose time is running short, and for their families, too.

With grant funding from the Armed Forces Covenant, the initiative has evolved from our collaboration with Plymouth City Council and other local organisations which established Plymouth as England’s first Compassionate City for people at end of life and those who care for them.

Recognising that patients from military backgrounds tend to feel better understood, and more at ease, when the care and support they receive acknowledges the service they have given their country, and the language and routines with which they are familiar, we are dedicating some of our own resources to help better identify those patients who would benefit.

Understanding, too, that receiving a terminal diagnosis can lead to feelings of isolation and loneliness, we are using the grant to recruit volunteers from military backgrounds, providing them with bespoke training so that they are equipped to give befriending support to terminally ill current and former servicemen and women and their families.

Many of St Luke’s own highly skilled staff come from military families or have themselves served in the armed forces. As well as harnessing their knowledge and experience to develop the pilot project, we have drawn on the expertise of charities dedicated to supporting current and former forces personnel, including the Plymouth Veterans and Families Hub, the Royal British Legion, SSAFA and Help for Heroes, all of whom welcome the initiative.

George Lillie, Director of Clinical Services and Deputy Chief Executive of St Luke’s, said: “We work with our community, in partnership with others, to achieve dignity, comfort and choice for people affected by life-limiting illnesses. The service we provide is about so much more than hands-on medical care – it is about getting to know our patients so that we can focus on what matters most to them, helping them make the most of their time with loved ones.

“We know that people respond best when they feel listened to and understood, and we are committed to doing all that we can to ensure this. The Armed Forces Covenant grant will help us meet the specific needs of terminally ill military staff and veterans, and their families. We will also share our learning with other organisations throughout the communities we serve across Plymouth and surrounding areas so that these patients feel better supported by all in the last months, weeks and days of their lives.”

Plymouth’s Mark Ormrod, the former Royal Marine Commando who sustained life-changing injuries while serving in Afghanistan and is now an internationally acclaimed motivational speaker, performance coach and award-winning author, is a patron of St Luke’s.

Championing the End of Life Military Compassion project, Mark said: “I have such respect for the team at St Luke’s, who always give their care with such kindness and sensitivity. Knowing that they are going the extra mile for forces families by developing their service in a way that is bespoke for them is fantastic. Not only will this help ensure terminally ill military men and women feel recognised for their service and die with dignity, but that their loved ones are better supported, too.”

For further information, please contact us on 01752 964250 or email education@stlukes-hospice.org.uk.

St Luke’s nurse, James, is taking his compassion for terminally ill patients to new heights, leaping from a plane to raise funds for the specialist hospice care that ensures they live well to the end of their lives.

On Sunday 25 April Clinical Nurse Specialist James Mills, part of our team team based at University Hospitals Plymouth NHS Trust, is taking part in an exhilarating sponsored tandem skydive from 15,000ft.

Recognising the impact of the pandemic on the vital income we would normally have generated through our charity shops and mass fundraising events, such as Men’s Day Out and Tour de Moor, James – who lives in Tavistock – has been motivated to strap on a parachute and make the giant jump to help make a difference beyond the hospital walls. The money he raises will support our service for patients throughout the communities of Plymouth and surrounding areas, including Tavistock, where he lives with his family.

Working across the wards of UHP NHS Trust, James and the rest of the St Luke’s team based there provide specialist advice and support for patients with progressive life-limiting illnesses. They are there to give emotional support and practical advice to these patients and to their families and carers, too, as well as delivering education in specialist end of life care to doctors and nurses across the hospital.

For many months of the Covid-19 crisis, James and his teammates at the hospital worked tirelessly alongside their NHS colleagues on the frontline so that patients dying from complications of the virus got the high-calibre compassionate end of life care they needed.

Watching James from the ground and cheering him on when he makes his fundraising freefall will be his partner Katherine and two children, ten-year-old Tom and Grace, aged six.

James said: “St Luke’s touches the lives of many local families, but what some people might not realise is that as an independent charity we rely heavily on the support we receive from our community. It makes a crucial difference because without it we couldn’t do as much for patients and their loved ones who rely on our service when they’re going through the toughest of times.

“Doing a skydive has long been on my bucket list and I’m really proud to be doing it for such a fantastic cause.”

Anyone wanting to donate can do so via James’s JustGiving fundraising page here.

Those who, like James, want to experience the unforgettable thrill of a tandem skydive in aid of St Luke’s, are invited to sign up for the challenge on 19 June or 12 September. You can do the jump for free when you raise sponsorship of £395 or more. Sign up here.

A Kingsbridge man, passionate about protecting the specialist service that ensures local people with terminal illness receive the high-quality care they need – and deserve – at the end of their lives, has taken up a new voluntary role with the charity carrying out this vital work.

Colin Pincombe has recently been appointed Impact Volunteer Partner with St Luke’s Hospice Plymouth. He is now sending out a rallying call to all like-minded people in the South Hams, asking them to join him in giving some of their spare time to help revitalise local recognition for the charity and build its resilience for the years to come.

Colin has had a long career in business, chairing NHS Trusts and, more recently, as a Trustee of Rowcroft Hospice. He is currently Chair of South Hams Hospital League of Friends.

St Luke’s is committed to caring for patients in the place that’s right for them, which for many is in the comfort of their own homes. Not only does this enable them to stay close to their loved ones, it reduces the need for them to travel into Plymouth for hospital treatment. This is of even greater importance for people living in isolated rural areas, where accessing all kinds of services can be more difficult. St Luke’s covers the whole of the South Hams district except Chillington to Dartmouth, which is served by Rowcroft Hospice.

While the hospice gives tailored care and support to patients and their families at no cost to those who receive it, this service does not come cheap to the charity. With people living longer and with more complex conditions, referrals are growing year on year, which increases pressure on its limited resources.

As an independent charity, St Luke’s relies on donations and fundraising from the communities it serves so that no-one who needs expert, compassionate care at the end of their life has to miss out. The pandemic has meant a particularly uncertain year for the hospice, with its income impacted by the temporary closure of its charity shops as well as the postponement of its mass participation events, such as Midnight Walk, until safer times.

Speaking about his new voluntary role with St Luke’s, Colin said: “The economic climate is only going to get tougher for everyone, including charities, so if we want to have the assurance that St Luke’s can continue serving our communities in the years ahead, now is the time for us to take action and show our support.

“That’s why I’m asking fellow South Hams residents from all walks of life to join me in spreading awareness of St Luke’s in our local area with a view to raising funds and recruiting volunteers to ensure the sustainability of the charity. I believe that together, we can make an important difference for our community.”

Penny Hannah, Head of Fundraising at St Luke’s, said: “Many people naturally associate the name St Luke’s with Plymouth but in fact our team is on the road 365 days a year, including across the South Hams, so that people living and dying with terminal illness know they have not been forgotten.

“I am delighted Colin has joined St Luke’s as Impact Volunteer Partner. He brings with him a great deal of valuable experience in the healthcare sector as well as an understanding of the pressures facing our charity, making him a real asset. We are tremendously grateful to him for getting behind St Luke’s to help us be here for local families for generations to come.”

Due to the pandemic, no meetings will take place in person until it is safe to do so, but to register your interest in joining Colin in giving a little spare time to support the vital work of St Luke’s in your local area, please email him at cpincombe@stlukes-hospice.org.uk or call St Luke’s on 01752 492626.

Much-loved local charity St Luke’s Hospice Plymouth is sending out a rallying call to the community to take on the challenge of quite literally going the extra mile to support its vital service while staying safe, close to home.

The compassionate care and support St Luke’s provides for terminally ill people across Plymouth and surrounding areas is given at no cost to them or their families, but it does not come cheap to the charity. The extra pressure of looking after more people throughout the pandemic – coupled with a decline income due to cancelled mass participation fundraising events and the temporary closure of its shops – means community support is needed now, more than ever, to keep its vital service running.

The charity, whose team gives not just hands-on medical care to patients but also the crucial emotional support and practical advice they and their families need at the most vulnerable of times, is inviting people to sign up for its Landmark Challenge this month to raise much-needed funds.

The challenge is flexible, giving everyone who registers the opportunity to walk, run or cycle the distance to a well-known landmark – either a special one of their own choosing or Yelverton Rock (9 miles), Tintagel Castle (39 miles), Land’s End (85 miles), Stonehenge (131 miles) or Big Ben (213 miles). (Mileage is approximate from Plymouth city centre.)

Though they may not be able to get to their chosen landmark in person due to the national Covid-19 safety restrictions in place, participants can use their choice of GPS tracking app and clock up the miles virtually, either outside within their local area or even at home.

Speaking about the Landmark Challenge, Penny Hannah, Head of Fundraising at St Luke’s, said: “This is a fantastic opportunity for our local community to take on a physical challenge to suit any ability, particularly at a time when many people want to be more active during lockdown because they recognise how beneficial it can be to body and mind.

“Other people may choose to get involved because they want to raise awareness of the vital service St Luke’s provides to so many families or because they want to celebrate the life of a lost loved one by taking part in memory of them.

“Whatever their motivation, what matters is that they’re not going for just a walk or run. The sponsorship they raise with every step will make an important difference, ensuring more local people with terminal illness get the high-quality care they need – and deserve – at the end of their lives.”

Sign up for the Landmark Challenge by 31 March 2021 at here – you’ll have five weeks from your sign-up date to complete the challenge and all participants will receive a medal to celebrate your achievement.

As we head towards the close of this extraordinary year, which has seen our clinical staff work so tirelessly to keep giving their compassionate care, members of our team based at University Hospitals Plymouth NHS Trust share their reflections on these past turbulent months, during which time the hospital’s ‘one big team’ ethos has been tested as never before.

Earlier this year, when the hospital was in the eye of the storm, Specialist Nurses Linzie Collins and Becky Harris were among the St Luke’s staff who joined forces with hospital doctors and nurses on the frontline, looking after seriously ill patients on the COVID red wards. As they stepped up to do this, working flat out, their colleagues at the hospital were also pulling out all the stops to ensure that the terminally ill patients nearing the end of their lives still received the specialist care they required.

Listening to Linzie and Becky talk about their experience then – and how things have been since – with admissions rising again more recently, it is clear that it is not just their expert hands-on care that has made such an important difference, ensuring patients are more comfortable and at ease. It is also the way they have communicated with patients’ families, combining sensitivity and kindness with the clarity that is so necessary to gaining relatives’ understanding of their loved one’s prognosis.

It is this same style of compassionate communication that they have used to help their hospital colleagues feel more confident in having these difficult conversations with patients’ families, including not only newly qualified nurses who suddenly found themselves on the frontline of COVID care, but more experienced staff, too.

Linzi said: “Before joining the team at Derriford I nursed patients at Turnchapel, where having these honest conversations with families happens on a very regular basis. It is never easy but you realise that in being open with them and, in a sensitive way, being clear about what they should expect is actually the kindest thing you can do because it helps prepare them – as much as possible – for what is going to happen. It gives them the opportunity to tell their loved one all that they feel they want to say before that person dies, which helps bring them comfort and more peace of mind.”

Preparing their hospital counterparts to have these open discussions wasn’t the only way Linzie and Becky helped them with communication, though. Recognising that UHP NHS Trust nurses often have difficulty finding the time to make calls to patients’ families, Linzie developed a ‘communication folder’ containing a simple form to record dates, times and brief notes of conversations that took place.. Thanks to the simplicity of the form, it can easily be updated no matter what the time of the day or night the call takes place, even if it’s at 3am.

Linzie said: “Nurses are so busy that they just don’t have time to be hunting around for information. I felt this was something simple I could do to help make things a little easier, with all key details about conversations with family and friends recorded in one central place.

“It was rewarding being able to help in this way to relieve some of the pressure on the hospital team, who have been so brave and are so exhausted, and they welcomed our suggestions and help with this.

“Something that it really brought home to Becky and me is that in working for St Luke’s we have the benefit of time to spend getting to know our patients – it’s all part of our holistic approach. Time is such a precious commodity at the hospital and there are always so many demands on the nurses – they have to prioritise giving clinical care above all else.”

Of course, we can’t mention communication without highlighting how Linzie, Becky and their colleagues had to think ‘outside the box’ to help dying patients – and the loved ones who couldn’t be with them in person because of the pandemic – feel as connected as possible, despite the physical distance between them. Technology had a big part to play here.

Becky said: “I’ll never forget witnessing a Zoom call we facilitated between a patient and his daughter. As you’d expect, she was devastated that she couldn’t be at his side to hold his hand, but she was at least able to tell him over and again how much she loved him. It was heart-breaking to see, but I’m so reassured that she was able to have that conversation with her dad. In time, knowing he heard her say how precious he was to her will – I hope – help heal her memories.”

“Normal grief patterns have been lost in COVID-19 because of how fast things have happened, the restrictions on families visiting their loved one and even funerals having to be done differently, so being able to help – even in small ways – feels very rewarding for us.”

The final word goes to Dr Doug Hooper, Consultant in Palliative Medicine in our team at Derriford. He said: “Although the virus means people have had to stay apart in a way we have never witnessed before, at the hospital we have seen how in another sense it has brought everyone closer together. It is not just our St Luke’s team who have gone over and above but colleagues right across the hospital. While this year has felt exhausting and relentless, we have all learned from each other and are stronger for it.”

A local charity that’s pulled out all the stops to continue its vital service for terminally ill patients and their families, despite the huge challenges of doing so during the pandemic, is calling on the community to support its annual Light up a Life appeal and are inviting people to dedicate a bauble in memory of their lost loved ones this festive season, which will also help ensure that people facing their last Christmas can make the most of every moment with their loved ones.

The appeal comes near the close of a year like no other, in which the charity has seen its income fall dramatically due to the pandemic forcing its charity shops shut temporarily as well as the postponement of its mass participation fundraising events, such as Midnight Walk and Men’s Day Out, until safer times next year. This is against a backdrop in which demand is growing for the specialist care and support St Luke’s provides, with people living longer and with more complex conditions.

Recognising that Christmas is a special time of celebration, St Luke’s is inviting people to dedicate a bauble in memory of their loved one, who once lit up their life. This can be done via the charity’s website at www.stlukes-hospice.org.uk/light regardless of whether or not your loved one was cared for by the charity.

Nina Wearne, Community & Events Fundraising Manager at St Luke’s, said: “If this year has taught us all anything, it is the importance of compassion and community spirit.

“We understand that for many people whose loved one has died, Christmas is a time of reflection and remembrance, and our Light up a Life appeal is an opportunity to pay tribute to that special person while helping St Luke’s reach more families who will need us this festive season.

“Christmas may look a bit different this year but it is still little kindnesses that make a big difference to people going through a very difficult time. It’s the support our charity receives from our community that enables us to give not only the high-quality care our patients need and deserve at the end of their lives but the comfort and reassurance that helps their families, too.”

As in previous years, St Luke’s is also inviting the community to come together to take part in its Light up a Life remembrance service. On Tuesday 15 December at 7.30pm, you can tune into the service live from The Minster of St Andrew’s in Plymouth while staying in the comfort of your own living room – simply visit www.stlukes-hospice.org.uk/light and follow the instructions on screen. This is an opportunity to join with others also reflecting on cherished memories of their lost loved ones while watching the dancing flames of hundreds of candles flickering in their memory.

Nina said: “There is something special about people coming together to celebrate the lives of those who have gone but are not forgotten, especially at Christmas. While we cannot do that in person this year, our virtual service will be no less uplifting.”

Working across the wards of University Hospitals Plymouth (UHP) NHS Trust 365 days a year, there’s a team small in number yet dynamic and consistently compassionate in the face of pressure, who swiftly stepped up to help strengthen the hospital’s emergency response when the pandemic hit hard earlier this year.

Now, with the number of COVID-19 patients on the rise locally as well as nationally, our hospital team is again giving its support to NHS colleagues, fortifying the frontline so that patients who are dying from complications of the virus receive the compassionate end of life care they need. As part of one big team at the hospital, our hospice staff are not only lending their expertise on the COVID red wards though – just as before, they’re pulling out all the stops to continue their usual work as well, ensuring that right across the hospital patients whose time is running short are as comfortable and at ease as possible.

Explaining how St Luke’s stepped up to help the hospital respond in the early months of the pandemic – and how it feels to be back supporting NHS colleagues dealing with the challenge of another influx of COVID-19 patients – St Luke’s nurse Julie Ayers said:

“Ordinarily, our team is involved in looking after up to 40 hospital patients at any one time, ensuring they receive the highest calibre care and giving emotional support to their families, too. While we are a small team, we are also flexible so when the gravity of the COVID-19 situation brought huge extra pressure to bear on the hospital, we were able to adapt quickly as part of its response to dealing with the emergency.

“It was about more than just providing specialist care and advice for patients with complex symptoms caused by the virus. We were also there supporting hospital staff who suddenly needed to have difficult but necessary conversations with patients’ families. This was especially hard for colleagues who’d never done it before, in some cases because they’d only very recently qualified as doctors and nurses. We drew on our experience to build their confidence and help them do this with kindness and sensitivity while not shying away from clarity because it’s so important to be open and honest with families in these situations.

“In addition, when inpatient and outpatient cancer treatment temporarily transferred to nearby Nuffield Hospital, we were there to provide specialist training for staff at the facility, many of whom were completely unused to looking after people with terminal illness because that’s not what their usual work involves. We continued to provide support for them until cancer care returned to UHP NHS Trust in August.”

“When I look back at that time now, which felt so relentless, I also recall how daunting it was, especially in those first few weeks because it was such an unprecedented time and none of us knew what to expect. I felt really anxious at first, especially with so many news reports about healthcare workers dying from COVID-19, but I think those fears are only natural.

“What’s really helped  – and what’s really stood out to me – is the level of support we’ve given each other. It’s been phenomenal, not just in our tightknit St Luke’s team but more widely across the whole hospital. We are really there for each other because we all recognise the importance of what do and at the same time empathise because we’re all juggling our work with the personal challenges everyone is experiencing due to the pandemic.

“We had to adapt the way we worked really quickly because things were changing not just daily but sometimes by the hour. We just got on with it though because that’s what we do. I’ve worked in palliative and end of life care for most of the past 20 years and have been back with the St Luke’s team for the past three – it’s simply where I feel I belong.”

Julie, who is married with two teenage daughters living at home, appreciates the unswerving support her family has given her as she’s continued to deliver vital care for patients week after week.

This time around, she feels she and the team are much better placed to meet the challenges of working on the frontline of hospital care, looking after patients who include those struggling with symptoms of COVID-19.

She said: “I think because of what we’ve already weathered, we know a lot more about what to expect as COVID cases continue to rise, though of course we can never get complacent.

“I still feel some trepidation – my biggest fear would be to have the virus, be symptomless and pass it on to one of my family – but with all the strict infection control measures in place, the hospital does feel a safe place to work.”

“I really want to emphasise the safety aspect because the rising number of deaths in the community points to people with terminal illness putting off hospital treatment because they’re afraid. I want to say to them, please keep your appointments. Or if you’re worried something might be wrong, don’t put off contacting your GP. It’s so important that people don’t delay what could turn out to be life-saving treatment.”

“Despite all the challenges and the emotional toll my work can take, I still love what I do. Although my role can be very sad at times, it is nevertheless really rewarding as I know I make such a difference to people’s lives.”

Taking up a post at St Luke’s is always going to be more than ‘just’ starting a new job.

What our charity does for patients and their families, uplifting them at a very challenging time, means that whether you have direct contact with them or are in a more behind-the-scenes role, there’s the reward of knowing you’re part of a very special team making a vital difference in your community. But it goes beyond that, too, because we invest in our staff and, as part of a package that also includes a generous annual leave allowance, pension and healthcare scheme, we offer them development opportunities as well

When Rachel Vosper was working as a Healthcare Assistant (HCA) at Turnchapel, where we look after our most vulnerable patients, she enjoyed learning all about the practical needs of people in our care, all the while nurturing her long-held dream of becoming a nurse. Now – thanks to an exciting opportunity for her to take a big step towards that goal by training as our first Nursing Associate – she’s feeling more fulfilled than ever.

Rachel said: “Working as an HCA was fantastic, but the longing to be a nurse never left me. It felt quite disheartening at times, really wanting to learn more about the clinical care patients need but feeling held back because I couldn’t afford to study for the degree you need to enter nursing. So I was over the moon when I found out about the opportunity to train as a Nursing Associate at St Luke’s. I’d never even heard the job title before and couldn’t wait to know more!”

The University of Plymouth’s Pre-registration Nursing Associate programme is an apprenticeship open to both new and existing healthcare staff, enabling them to study for a fully funded foundation degree and obtain a professional qualification and registration with the Nursing & Midwifery Council. Once qualified, Nursing Associates can work across a wide range of healthcare settings and clinical areas, including acute or community hospitals, community nursing teams, GP practices and hospices.

Rachel said: “As a mum of two, being able to earn while I learn is key for me. Training as a Nursing Associate at St Luke’s means I can work towards my qualification while being paid a salary, and the structure of working four days a week and studying at the Uni on the other day means I still get to enjoy time with my family on my days off. It’s working out really well – I always want to learn more and keep challenging myself, and being at St Luke’s I know I’m learning from the best.

“What helps, too, is the great support I get from colleagues, from our doctors, nurses and HCAs to the Education and Social Care teams. It isn’t just about the clinical skills I’m gaining – like taking blood, catheterisation of patients and giving them their medication – it’s learning more about how to have those sensitive conversations with families and giving the emotional support patients and their loved ones need.”

As part of their training, Rachel and her fellow University students spend time reflecting on their practice so that they continue to improve. She said: “It gives me the chance to really absorb new experiences and help me do my best – I want to feel I’m doing everything I possibly can to make sure patients receive excellent care.”

While the pandemic means that Rachel’s study has had to take place online in recent months, and that certain placements have been cancelled, she has benefited from spending time with district nurses, learning about their role, as well as from a placement at a local GP surgery.

She said: “All this means I’m getting a well-rounded experience that’s giving me greater understanding of other healthcare roles and how they work together.

“I’m excited about the future, especially working more closely with our doctors and nurses and having my own patients to look after. I hope I can help those who may take up the opportunity to train in the future. I’d really like to support them in achieving their goals, too.”

With an eye on the horizon, Rachel knows that qualifying as a Nursing Associate means she can, when she’s ready, get a faster track to achieving her ambition of becoming a nurse by entering direct to the second year of degree study at the University.

Nicola Pereira, Head of Inpatient Nursing Services at St Luke’s, said: “As an HCA, Rachel was already an asset to St Luke’s and now she’s a trailblazer as she works towards becoming our first qualified Nursing Associate. It is always rewarding seeing members of the team develop and fulfil their potential, so it’s brilliant seeing her go from strength to strength.”

For more on working with St Luke’s – and details of our current vacancies – click here.