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St Luke's nurse Anca pictured outside hospice

 

How the nurturing environment of St Luke’s, plus her own gentle strength and tenacity, have helped Anca thrive in her role at St Luke’s.

When you’ve arrived from overseas to live in another country and are still learning its language, you often rely on the non-verbal cues you pick up from those around you to help you adapt to the culture and your new surroundings. It is an experience Staff Nurse Anca Marasescu – who arrived in Plymouth from Romania in 2011 – has found helpful to draw on in her work caring for patients and supporting their relatives at our specialist unit at Turnchapel.

Anca, who lives in the city with her husband and twin daughters, said: “It is so important to be sensitive to how our patients and their families are feeling, which is about more than just listening to their words. Sometimes, the look in their eyes, or their posture, can tell me more about how they are feeling – and how they might want to receive my help – than what they say.

“I don’t see myself as special because as a team we all very attentive to them and their needs. We each bring our own unique perspective to our role at St Luke’s, and I think my experience of adapting to life and work in a foreign country, and not always being able to rely on words because the language was new, has become a strength and part of what makes me empathic in what I do. I never forget that our patients and their loved ones who visit them at Turnchapel are in an unfamiliar environment so need gentle support and extra reassurance.”

St Luke's nurse Anca holding a patients handWhen Anca joined our charity in 2017, she was new to hospice care but not to nursing itself, having worked first in a neo-natal unit in Romania, taking care of newborn babies needing intensive care, and then at Derriford, where she was a nurse looking after patients on Lynher Ward.

Anca said: “Though it wasn’t something I deliberately planned, my career has taken me from caring for new lives and then to nursing adults – usually those in middle age – to where I am now, giving care to people approaching the end of their lives.

“When I started working at Turnchapel I was out of my comfort zone and, with so much to learn about the specialist service St Luke’s provides it did feel daunting. As well as the support I got from my family, who are always telling me, “You can do it!”, what helped was the warm welcome I received and the consistent encouragement I’ve had from colleagues to always be myself while soaking up as much as I can. They know me and my ironic humour, and they’ve never wanted me to change or to lose my accent.”

Anca also cites the strong leadership the team has from Nicola Pereira, Head of Inpatient Nursing Services, and Sister Karen Thorrington as being key to her growth and development at St Luke’s.

“It doesn’t matter where I turn help is there, so I always feel well supported. Feedback from my manager Karen is really helpful, and when she described seeing my progress as just like watching a bud come into blossom, it really touched me to know that I am making a difference.

“As well as helping our patients feel as at ease as possible, just like the rest of the team I am always thinking of their relatives, too. Knowing that they will always remember how they felt when their loved one died, I reassure them that they did their best for that person. Giving them that comfort is really important because it helps them process what has happened and, over time, come to terms with such a significant loss. I think of my own family and how I would want them to be treated in that situation.”

“I’m really happy that in working with the St Luke’s team I have found somewhere that feels like home. We appreciate our similarities and also recognise that our differences are a strength and help us learn from each other. Regardless of how long they stay, everyone who chooses to work at the hospice is special.”

If you are interested in joining our team at St Luke’s, you can find out more and see our current vacancies here.

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.

Scott Medical College

Students of Scott Medical and Healthcare College are not only proving they’re as well motivated as ever despite lockdown, learning from home via lessons online, they’ve shown that when it comes to kindness they’re also top of the form, fundraising for local hospice care.

The specialist mainstream school for 13 to 19 year-olds, where students study towards careers in medicine and healthcare, chose to get behind our charity, recognising that now more than ever our charity needs support from the community to continue providing our vital service for local families. So, ditching their usual lockdown attire of casualwear, students from every year group dressed in their school uniforms for a ‘reverse mufti day’, raising £250 for St Luke’s in the process.

Being a partner of our Compassionate Schools initiative, which helps school staff better support students who are facing bereavement or have already lost someone close to them, the College was so determined to show its support that even the teachers dressed in school uniform to enter into the spirit of the occasion.

But that’s not all because during one online lesson, students received a special surprise when St Luke’s healthcare assistant Samm and nurse Theresa ‘gatecrashed’ to thank them for their support and take part in an online question and answer session, providing an insight into their work looking after terminally ill people who are dying. As part of the session, our specialist unit carers explained how they are coping with the changes brought about by the COVID-19.

St Luke’s healthcare assistant Samm said: “We are used to being there for our patients at a very difficult time so we are resilient, but it is hard not being able to hug them or hold their hand because it is second nature to us to show them that compassion. We still provide lots of reassurance for them though, and we’re doing lots to help them keep in touch with their families, recognising how very hard it is for them not to be together at this time.”

Headteacher of Scott Medical and Healthcare College Martyn Cox said: “As a specialist school, we place great emphasis on equipping our students with the vocational skills they need for exciting careers in healthcare, so it was hugely valuable to them to hear from the St Luke’s nurses about the challenges – and rewards – of working in hospice care.“I’m very proud of the way our students and staff embraced the idea of the reverse mufti day to show their support for the service St Luke’s provides, which we should never take for granted.”

Penny Hannah, Head of Fundraising at St Luke’s, said: “It’s heart-warming that these students preparing for their careers and adult lives have made such an effort to show people who are at the end of their lives that they haven’t been forgotten. We’re very grateful for their fantastic fundraising, which will help us be there for more local families who need us.”

Learn more about becoming a compassionate school to better support bereaved students.