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Colleagues reflect on what matters most to them in palliative care for Dying Matters Week 2022

Colleagues across UHDB have been reflecting on what ‘a good place to die’ means to them as we mark Dying Matters Week 2022.

Colleagues across UHDB have been reflecting on what ‘a good place to die’ means to them as we mark Dying Matters Week 2022 (2 – 6 May).

During the course of the pandemic, our colleagues have seen more death than could have previously been anticipated, which has proven to be a challenge for both our colleagues, but also for our patients and their loved ones. Statistics released in 2020 show that 28 per cent of people prefer to die in their own home – but Covid-19 has added further barriers to this.

However, despite all of this, our teams across our hospitals have been going above and beyond for patients at the end of life and their families, often in the most challenging of circumstances.

Jane Moreland, End of Life Care Facilitator at UHDB, said: “Clinical teams across all UHDB have continued to go above and beyond to ensure our hospitals are a good place die, despite it possibly not always being a patient’s preferred place of death. Home is a feeling not a place, so the work our teams have done to provide that 'home feeling' has made our hospitals as close to the preferred place as possible.

“I am so proud of everything our clinical teams have done during Covid-19. You have adapted to ever changing situations and you have supported the loved ones of those patients you care for who cannot visit.  We need to remind ourselves and our colleagues of this and acknowledge the many times that you have gone above and beyond during someone's final days or hours of life.”

Throughout the pandemic, colleagues have implemented number of initiatives including a virtual visiting service, where a ‘virtual visit’ via video call can be arranged for patients to speak to their loved ones to aid their wellbeing. Written messages have also been delivered to patients on our wards from friends and family across our hospitals.

All wards have also supplied with wooden olive hearts for patients to hold while they were in hospital, which were then given to families after they died.  The hope was that this gesture provided some comfort to the patient's family, with the hearts then being placed in an organza bag for them to take home with them in memory of their loved one. We have also kindly been donated pairs of knitted hearts by some of our volunteers to use in the same way as a keepsake to offer some comfort.

We have been asking colleagues at Royal Derby Hospital what they think the most important thing is in regards to care at the end of life, and here’s what some of them had to say:

Fiona Barber, Senior Registered Nurse on Ward 301, said making her patients feel at home was really important to her: “This really gives patients the feeling of familiarity and we communicate with their family to find out what home means to them to give them that feeling of familiarity.”

For Alyana Bravo, Registered Nurse on Coronary Care Unit, getting the patient’s family involved is also important: “The family are the advocates for the patient if they can’t communicate themselves, so it’s really important for them to be there and be involved in their care.”

For Lindsey Smith, Clinical Educator on Nightingale Macmillan Unit, she said being comfortable and peaceful to treasure those final moments means the most to her.

She said: “I want to be sure I can get things in place for my family and write my daughter a letter for when she’s older. We’ve helped patients to do this before and it’s been really moving so this is definitely something I would want.”