Saint Francis Hospice: How do you give a reassuring smile from behind a mask?

Saint Francis Hospice nurse Nicola Stananought. Picture: Saint Francis Hospice

Saint Francis Hospice nurse Nicola Stananought. Picture: Saint Francis Hospice - Credit: Archant

In our weekly column from Saint Francis Hospice, clinical nurse specialist Nicola Stananought

Many of our patients express a clear wish that when they are less well, they want to remain in their own home; they want to be comfortable, they want their dignity maintained and they want their loved ones near.

It’s our aim as community clinical nurse specialists to help ensure this happens.

Covid-19 is certainly testing our abilities but I’m pleased to say we’re far from beaten!

I’ll admit that when I was asked to visit my first Covid-19 positive patient I was more than a little apprehensive. Thoughts of my own young family ran through my head as I donned my PPE on the patient’s driveway.

I knew the patient was going to be symptomatic; what I didn’t realise was just how familiar managing their symptoms would feel – an injection, some oxygen, a fan and a freshen up. Nothing I hadn’t encountered before.

What I hadn’t envisaged, however, was the need to find other ways to forge the deep human connection that is the very essence of palliative care.

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How do you give a reassuring smile from behind a facemask, hold a patient’s hand whilst wearing gloves, or give a relative a comforting hug whilst trying to maintain social distancing?

When witnessing what can be the most difficult time in a person’s life, it feels so alien to take a step back when we’ve always been the ones to take a step forward.

In these unprecedented times, our job is more challenging but definitely not impossible.

Team work has always been the foundation of what we do and I’m very proud and privileged to be able to say that I work with an amazingly dedicated and knowledgeable group of professionals both from within the hospice and outside – we couldn’t manage, more so now than ever before, without the help and support of district nursing teams, GPs and carers.

We are currently having to adapt the ways in which we work but in doing so we are still ensuring that our patient’s wishes are upheld.

Hence, those who want to stay at home can still feel 100per cent fully supported in doing just that.

The hospice is facing a funding crisis as a result of Covid-19 and our nurses need the support of the local community more than ever.

Please donate to our urgent appeal by visiting

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