Louise Gower has seen plenty of change in 20 years working for East Anglia’s Children’s Hospices (EACH). However, one thing has remained consistent throughout – an unflinching desire to do the best for the families it supports.
Louise started as a nurse at EACH’s former Quidenham hospice and is now Service Manager at The Nook. Along the way, she has worked in the fields of long-term ventilation and symptom management, as well as being Care Manager.
Much like the organisation, though, her commitment to help and support the countless families she has worked alongside has never wavered.
“The building might have got bigger, now we have The Nook,” said Louise.
“We might have more staff and offer more, but we’ve never lost our family-centred approach. It’s still at the forefront of everything we do and that’s what I love now, just as I did when I came here as a student.
“I love the fact we get an opportunity to meet families and build a rapport with them. That hasn’t changed, regardless of whichever role I’ve been in. That’s the main thing, for me. The core values haven’t ever changed.”
Prior to completing her training, Louise worked at the former Jenny Lind Children’s Hospital, in Norwich (part of the Norfolk and Norwich Hospital). She was there for five years as a care assistant and always planned to go back.
However, during her time as a student, she came for a role at Quidenham. It was part of a community placement and she relished the opportunity.
“It was so enjoyable and more about one-to-one care, in a more homely environment,” said Louise.
“There was an opportunity to build professional relationships with the children and families, so when a newly-qualified post came up at Quidenham I went for it and got the job. That was in October 2003.
“I started as a development nurse and then, after a year, progressed to a shift leader. I did that for a few years and then they introduced long-term ventilation roles.
“I got involved in running training packages and also completed nine months in what we now call the symptom management team. I wanted to get the extra experience and then went back onto the care floor.
“I covered for a colleague on maternity leave for a year, in the Care Manager role. After that I worked in a team leader position for a couple of years before becoming Care Manager on a full-time basis.”
The Nook was officially opened by The Princess of Wales, then The Duchess of Cambridge, in November 2019. Louise, 47, covered the Service Manager role for 12 months, before being offered it on a permanent basis in November 2022.
“Working here is definitely something I’d recommend, especially for anyone wanting to make a difference,” she said.
“There are opportunities to do that because it’s one-to-one care, most of the time. A lot of people say ‘I don’t know how you work in a children’s hospice. It must be really sad’.
“Yes, there are times it’s sad, but, actually, there’s so much positivity. You get to attend events with families and offer them activities. You get time to listen to them and ask their views on things.
“For instance, we’re currently in the process or gauging opinions before decorating the bedrooms and you wouldn’t get that in the NHS.”
Louise says working at The Nook is a very different experience to being based at Quidenham.
“Since we’ve been here, we’ve always been able to provide end-of-life, crisis care or routine short breaks, or an event or training. There hasn’t been a single scenario where I’ve had to say ‘no, we can’t accommodate that’, whereas before it was sometimes a case of one or the other.
“We have the space and facilities here at The Nook and it’s got that wow factor, hasn’t it?”
Louise, who is married, has two teenage sons and lives in Wymondham, would recommend working for EACH. She is grateful for the opportunities that have come her way and always felt able to develop and progress her career.
“As a nurse, sometimes you’re a little bit worried to come away from the NHS,” she said.
“I understand that, especially if you don’t know much about an organisation like EACH. However, I can only say positive things and wouldn’t have stayed so long, if I felt differently.
“EACH has given me so many opportunities and if you take them, you can certainly expand your knowledge and develop here. Trying different areas actually helped me decide my own career path.
“I enjoyed the long-term ventilation and symptom management, but actually preferred the managerial side of things when I covered the maternity post. That’s what pushed me to go down the management route.
“EACH is very good in that respect, despite being such a small organisation compared to the NHS. It provides possibilities and opportunities if you want to take them.
“That’s certainly been my experience and I’m very proud to have been here so long. I’ve seen lots of change, but nothing that’s hindered me in any way.
“If anything, it’s made me more driven and I like the fact there are so many opportunities to learn new things and take different things on. Things are always moving forward and never standing still, which appeals to me.
“As an organisation, EACH has always been responsive and people listen to concerns. You feel valued for what you do.”