Clinical Nurse Specialist Louise McLaughlin believes she is working for a “gold-standard organisation” in East Anglia’s Children’s Hospices (EACH).
The 35-year-old has been in her post for just over six months, having started at Addenbrooke’s Hospital, in Cambridge, before spending 14 years at Bedfordshire-based Keech Hospice Care.
Now she is settled in her role and believes it is the perfect place to progress her career, thanks to the wealth of knowledge within the team at EACH’s Milton hospice.
“I’ve always been interested in hospice, palliative care. It’s what I studied at university,” said Louise, who lives across the Bedfordshire border.
“I spent my first year in the profession working at Addenbrooke’s.
“I was on the oncology ward but didn’t feel it was quite right for me so moved to Keech Hospice Care (the adult hospice for Luton and south Bedfordshire and the children’s hospice for Bedfordshire, Hertfordshire and Milton Keynes).
“I was there for 14 years, starting as a band five nurse but working up to Clinical Nurse Specialist.
“It embedded my passion for palliative and end-of-life care and then an opportunity arose to join EACH.
“For me, it’s always been a gold-standard organisation.
“It’s mainly nurse-led and empowers nurses like myself.
“A lot of very qualified, knowledge people work here and because of that it’s absolutely perfect for me, because I wanted to come here and learn.
“Every single day I gain something new because the learning opportunities are amazing.
“The leadership is very good and it’s evidence-based practice, with lots of support and opportunities.
“It’s a perfect place to further my career.”
No two days are ever the same for Louise or anyone within the EACH team.
However, she generally starts each morning with a tri-site, online planning meeting, alongside colleagues from The Nook and The Treehouse.
She may then be asked to review a child’s condition, either at the hospice, at home or within a hospital.
Her day may involve having discussions with a child’s family about hospice and palliative care, making it clear what we can be offered and what their choices are.
She also writes symptom management plans, discussing symptoms that might arise and how they can be treated. This may involve ordering drugs.
“Our days are always varied and it’s a real team effort,” said Louise.
“We have planned visits and in terms of talking to parents, it’s a case of discussing next steps – plans B and C.
“This may involve making adjustments to medications, liaising with consultants and other team members, to ensure the child is having the right drugs and right doses.
“We may need to discuss things with occupational therapists or liaise with wellbeing leads, if parents or siblings need extra support.
“The nursing team are always on call, 24/7.
“In addition to actually covering shifts, it’s important to set things up for the on-call staff and that’s another important part of my job.
“I and we need to have a plan and think ahead, to make sure everything’s documented.”
Louise admits her job can be emotionally draining but says that when it comes to end of life, her and her colleagues just want to make a difference.
“If a child has a particularly distressing symptom and is experiencing pain, we need to be armed with the right drugs,” she said.
“If that ensures they have a pain-free death, it makes it easier to deal with.
“There are obviously occasions when you can’t get on top of symptoms and that’s harder to come to terms with.
“We always have debriefs and talk about what we think went well and not so well.
“It’s an opportunity to learn and that makes it easier to deal with.
“If something doesn’t go so well, the hope is that you can make it better for the next person.”
Despite its challenges, Louise greatly enjoys her job. She finds it satisfying and rewarding and is proud to be part of Team EACH.
The mum-of-two said: “Not so long ago, palliative care wasn’t seen as a key part of these children’s journeys.
“Now, thankfully, we’re able to offer a very good service of care and fill a massive hole.
“We’re needed – no-one else can do our job – and we’re the experts in palliative care. Intensive care staff and those in oncology look at what we do.
“I love working for EACH.
“There are so many cogs in a big wheel, from the job we do to fundraising and retail and the marketing and communications team.
“There are lots of people involved and it’s great being part of such a vast team.
“Without that team ethic, we wouldn’t be able to offer the service we do.”