Joanne Stamp (center) and some of her fantastic team.

Into the unknown with love

The outstanding work being done by a team at the Butterwick Hospice has been recognised in a virtual award ceremony.

The group, from Bishop Auckland, won the Palliative Care Team of the Year title, in the Northern Echo Health and Care Awards 2021, during a ceremony held online on March 25. The awards were to honour those in the care sector who have risen to the challenges presented by the coronavirus crisis, and gone above and beyond their duty to help others.

In the award for Palliative Carer of the Year, the remit read: An award for an individual or team that recognises how choices made by the person being cared for, and their family, is central to the service and care that is delivered. This involves reflecting fully on what is important to the person at the end of their life. The judges will be looking for a carer or team who demonstrate what it takes to support clients and their families with care, as well as psychological, social and spiritual support.

The team of eight was nominated by Joanne Stamp, Palliative Home Care Coordinator, who said that she is proud of the fantastic job that they all do, particularly throughout the pandemic.

They work seven days a week, 365 days a year, from 10pm to 6am, caring for patients through the night, and providing respite for the families or carers, giving them the opportunity for a break and some respite during what can be a very mentally and physically difficult time.

“Although they love what they do, they definitely worked over and above their usual remit, without question and without complaint,” she explained.

“We really are going in to the unknown when we visit patients at home. Under normal circumstances, the first time we knock at someone’s door, we don’t know what to expect – and this was even more so during the pandemic.”

Because of Covid, all the members of the team have to wear full PPE, including gloves, face mask, aprons, and visors, which, Jo admits, was also difficult for the patients.

“It’s hard enough coming to terms and living with a life-limiting illness, and, when you’re at end of life, the last thing you want to experience is seeing someone in full PPE, with only their eyes visible,” she said. “That’s why we have to do much more vocally, using a gentle and reassuring tone, and make sure that the eyes match it. A lot of reassurance can be given just from eye contact.”

The team relies on information provided by district nurses, but it can still be challenging walking through someone’s front door. They have to put their trust in the family, or the carer, that there is no coronavirus in the house, and that no-one is self-isolating.

But they are there to do a job to the best of their ability, and part of that job is to build up a trusting relationship with the family: to reassure them that they are there to support, reassure and care for their loved-one during what must be a harrowing time. They also have to have the patient’s trust, so they can feel reassured and safe while being cared for through the night.

“It is an unknown and uncertain time for families, and, yes, there will be tears. But we are there to make this very personal experience as dignified as possible.

“It takes a certain kind of somebody to do this job, and every member of this team is wonderful.”

There was only Jo and a colleague watching online on the evening the winner of the award was announced, because the rest of the team was working. But she does admit to a glass of wine in celebration, along with some party poppers.

The team’s success, and the full awards ceremony, can be viewed on this link: HERE

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