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St Francis Hospice 30for30: ‘It has been a privilege’ says nursing chief on retirement

Saint Francis Hospice nurse Cecilia O'Keefe. Saint Francis Hospice nurse Cecilia O'Keefe.

Sunday, March 16, 2014
2:07 PM

As we continue our 30for30 appeal, Cecilia O’keefe talks about her time at the hospice and says she couldn’t have chosen a better career.

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How to donate

Donate online through our Just Giving page by following the link below or contact the hospice fundraising team on 01708 771407.

Alternatively you could send a cheque made payable to Saint Francis Hospice: Saint Francis Hospice, The Hall, Havering-atte-Bower, RM4 1QH.

Please write “Recorder/Post appeal” on the back.

After 16 years at the hospice and a decade in its day therapy unit, Cecilia O’Keefe made the bittersweet decision to hang up her nurse’s uniform and retire.

As the unit’s nurse manager, she was responsible for seven members of staff and about 80 patients, but that didn’t get in the way of Cecilia loving the job.

“I couldn’t have chosen a better career,” she said. “I’ve loved every minute of it. Meeting so many wonderful people has been a privilege and an honour.

“One of my favourite parts of the job is watching the transformation in patients after they have been here a while.

“They come to us so low but it’s such a pleasure after a few weeks with our counsellors, psychologists, physiotherapists and chaplains to watch them blossom like a flower. It can change their outlook and lighten their mood mixing with other people in the same situation as them.

“If somebody has a life-limiting illness we may not be able to cure it but we can help them to live again,” she added.

Cecilia started at the in-patient ward in 1998 but has spent the majority of her years at Saint Francis in the newly named day therapy unit.

The day therapy service is an integral part of the hospice’s work in the community. It enables patients who do not require an inpatient unit bed to use the hospice and its multi-professional team for specialist advice and support.

Over the last year the service has been enhanced to reflect the changing needs of patients who have told the hospice they would like to use its services for a short period without disrupting their normal daily life.

Cecilia talks highly of the hospice’s founder, Joan Matthews, and considers herself lucky to have worked with such a “passionate and inspirational” woman.

After leaving the hospice she said she will miss the supportive environment and will be especially sad to say goodbye to colleagues, volunteers and patients. “I’ll always keep in contact with the hospice,” Cecilia added.

“I’m not sure how exactly, yet – but I know I will always want to stay involved and to help as much as I can.”

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