Sarah Brutnell feels she has the best of both worlds in her role with East Anglia’s Children’s Hospices (EACH). The 34-year-old joined the organisation in April 2018 and has been Care Manager at Milton since November 2020.
She loves being in a management position, making key decisions that directly impact children and families using the hospice. However, she still values the opportunity to be ‘hands-on’ – meeting and spending time with those receiving care and support.
“My favourite thing about working here is the difference you make,” said the mum of three.
“One of our main values is ‘make it happen’ and we really bring that to life, particularly in care. I’ll never forget the planning that went into somebody renewing their vows on the care floor, or the time we brought our winter lights to the hospice.
“In what other job and setting are you able to do that? The way the whole team pulls together and at end of life is quite incredible. Even when it’s something little like arranging a stay or short break, you know you’re helping a family that are really struggling.
“Those little things are so important and it makes you realise why you do what you do. Even on a tougher, more challenging shift, I don’t see it as a bad day. It’s still hugely satisfying and you’ve got to love what you do. I think that’s so important.”
Sarah, who lives in Milton, has a long-term connection with EACH, dating back 15 years. She spent time on a placement, while training to become a children’s nurse.
“I was really struck by the atmosphere,” she said.
“It was so lovely and felt very different. I felt the staff really wanted to make a difference, in terms of the care and support they were providing for children and families.
“The thing I really loved was the quality of care you were able to deliver and being able to care for the children holistically. The staff were clearly invested and it was clear there were progression opportunities, which appealed to me.
“I left feeling positive and inspired, knowing that when I was ready, and had gained experience elsewhere, I’d be back. Thankfully that turned out to be the case.”
After her placement, Sarah worked as a neonatal nurse and then as a children’s oncology nurse. Together with husband Chris, she also had a family of her own, becoming mum to Noah, now ten, Jacob, nine, and Harley, six.
As her children got older, she decided it was time to start investing in her career again. After checking the EACH website, she applied for a band six team leader position – and was thrilled to get the job.
“I was so happy and excited and what I found lovely was that a lot of the staff were still here from when I was a student,” said Sarah.
“I thought ‘wow, that says a lot about working for EACH’. One thing I’ll always be grateful for are the progression opportunities. That’s huge for me and the training opportunities, in terms of things like palliative care and ventilation, have been great.
“You have the chance to learn lots of new skills and I really value that. I’m less hands-on now, since becoming Care Manager. However, I still do bank shifts because I enjoy delivering care.
“I feel I have the best of both worlds because I’m able to support our staff and I know what they’re going through, because I’ve been there and worked the shifts. I like to think that helps.
“I’m also able to deliver hands-on care to the children as well, which I love. I like that dual aspect of my role.”
Sarah says EACH is a great place to gain experience and develop skills working in children’s palliative care.
“I love it here and feel sure others will feel the same,” she said.
“You’re not just a number – people know who you are and although there’s obviously a hierarchy, everyone is very approachable and supportive. That’s a huge thing to achieve in a workplace.
“There’s obviously a level of respect for people in senior positions but, at the same time, you’re able to talk to them comfortably and go to them for support and advice. I’d recommend working here to anyone and have a few colleagues that have followed me here.
“They reached out and asked what I thought. I said ‘go for it – you’ll love it’ and would always recommend working for EACH. It’s a lovely team and we all have a common goal, which is obviously to do the best for the families and deliver a high standard of care.
“You also feel listened to and when organisational decisions are made, staff are given opportunities to be involved and to hear about them. You don’t just hear about change through an e-mail.
“Instead, there are discussions, you have a chance to feed things back and you always know that’s going on. I’m not just saying that as a Care Manager, because I happen to be in meetings that others aren’t. I’ve always felt the same way.”