14 April 2022
How a former nurse’s death created a new community of professionals
When Tyrrell Evans’ wife Siân died in March 2020, it could have been the end of a relationship with St Christopher’s that dated back decades. Tyrrell witnessed St Christopher’s care for many of his patients throughout his career as a local GP. He then served as a trustee at the hospice for 15 years. Finally, or what might have been finally, he, Siân and their daughter Isabel, experienced the full range of care, first hand, during her final few months.
It’s that possibly unique knowledge of the care and support of St Christopher’s from three different perspectives, that makes Tyrrell so well qualified to appreciate the huge demands not only on the hospice itself, but also the workforce within it, especially the nurses.
So, we must support them and l will always work to do that.
That appreciation combined with a desire to create a legacy for Siân, herself a former nurse, that led Tyrrell and Isabel to extend, and even deepen, their relationship with St Christopher’s and the wider palliative care nursing network.
“So many people think hospices are part of the NHS,” says Tyrrell. “But they are charities that need funding. So, we must support them and l will always work to do that.”
Siân, who had breast cancer as well as liver and bone secondaries, benefitted from the huge array of care provided by St Christopher’s, including the dietitian, acupuncture and massage (which Tyrrell enjoyed too), physiotherapists for breathing help, walking advice, rehabilitation and the gym.
Tyrrell is acutely aware that this kind of holistic care isn’t available for all and it’s what makes him all the more determined to help generations of end of life care nurses across all settings deliver the best possible care.
He says: “Unfortunately hospices can’t look after everyone who is dying. That means the whole health and social care system has to play its part in delivering care for the dying. It’s so important that nurses feel able and supported to work with people at the end of life.”
And it was that thought that inspired Isabel to come up with the idea of a programme to support newly qualified nurses working in palliative and end of life care.
Tyrrell adds: “Siân spent a lot her life helping young people with different kinds of crises, and Isabel thought we should support young nurses that are helping to support people who are dying and enable them to do that as well as they possibly can. For nurses experiencing patient deaths for the first time, they really do need support.”
What started as an informal appeal included in a 2020 Christmas card from Tyrrell to his friends and relatives, raised an astonishing £35,000. The St Christopher’s CARE team then helped shape Isabel and Tyrrell’s idea, and out of it came our Newly Qualified Nurses’ Community of Practice, launched in autumn 2021.
The attributes he identifies as essential for a good end of life care nurse are at the heart of his vision for the community.
“You need to feel confidence in the competence of your nurse. I felt very confident in the care we received from St Christopher’s, never had any doubt.”
“So, with the community I think it’s the all-round package we’re aiming for – combining what you know with how you use that knowledge as well as supporting individuals. Nurses have to be able to connect with the people they’re working with, have a level of knowledge that makes them feel confident to provide good care and feel resilient.”
Siân worked as a nurse in London for many years, across a number of specialisms, before moving into counselling. Tyrrell hopes nurses in the community feel empowered to develop the same kind of relationships with their patients that Sian did. “It was the personal and communication part of the work that Siân enjoyed most. She loved talking to people and listening to them. I think she liked connecting with people and understanding where they came from and how they could work together to manage their problem. She felt she could help people help themselves and guide their future choices.”
Thanks to the generous support of Sian and Tyrrell’s family and friends, dozens of nurses, up to five years qualified are now benefitting from this self-sustaining network that provides monthly shared learning sessions, as well as that all important peer support and an opportunity for reflection.
Later this year, all the members of the community will get the chance to meet each other and the Evans family, in person, for a celebration of its first anniversary, at St Christopher’s CARE.
If you’d like to join the Newly Qualified Nurses’ Community of Practice, which is open to all nurses up to five years post qualification, register now.
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