Caring for People in Harrow & Brent

“I’d never felt more appreciated and valued in my working life”

Hello, I am Marie-Claire Rooney, a specialty registrar doctor at St Luke’s.

On joining St Luke’s last October, a second lockdown in England was announced, and then commenced shortly afterwards. It was a time of heightened anxiety for all, not least for our patients and their families.

Since then restrictions have eased and tightened, then eased and tightened again, and cases have waxed and waned. But one thing that has remained constant amidst all of this unpredictability is the incredible teamwork of the staff at St Luke’s Hospice.

Despite the challenging backdrop, the members of staff here have continued to smile through troubling times and have never stopped thinking of innovative ways to optimise patients’ and families’ experiences within the restrictions imposed. 

There is one example that stands out in my mind.

It involves an elderly lady who was transferred from hospital with covid-19 pneumonia, which sadly was not responding to treatment. Her only family were her 2 daughters, who lived in Ireland and could not visit due to travel restrictions.

However, they were obviously very dedicated and loving daughters, totally invested in their mother and keen to be kept up to date. We agreed that between the doctors and the nursing staff we would call them daily to give them a medical update.

We managed to control the patient’s respiratory distress with medication, however, the patient expressed her wish to connect with her daughters and grandchildren. Our incredible patient and family support team reached out to her daughters and suggested that her grandchildren write letters to grandma, which they did.

On a cold January morning a virtual “farewell visit” was set up for the patient. The patient’s daughters spoke with their mother over a video call, and the grandchildren were virtually present for when their letters were read to grandma. There was a great feeling of togetherness, not just amongst the patient and her family, but amongst the whole team. The doctors, nurses, HCAs & social workers alike. It was an emotional visit for all … but so very beautiful. A few hours later, our patient died peacefully.

On a personal level, I started my work here at St Luke’s Hospice feeling quite nervous as I stepped into my new role as a senior doctor, in a new workplace.

But I needn’t have worried.

My very first weekend on-call transpired to be quite exceptional by typical weekend standards. I’d attended the unit on the Saturday, reviewed the patients and carried out my duties as planned, then went home for the night, advising the nurses to call if they had any problems. At 2am I got a call about a community patient that we felt needed to come in, so I made my way into the hospice to clerk her. Following that, however, another patient from a neighbouring hospital was due to be transferred first thing on Sunday morning. It wouldn’t have been worth my while going home & coming back again, so I set up a bed on the couch in the kitchen upstairs and the lovely night staff got me blankets and tea and looked after me well. As if that wasn’t enough – one of the nurses bought me a beautiful bouquet of flowers the next day and later my consultants acknowledged and thanked me for my work. I couldn’t get over it! I was just doing my job! I’d never felt more appreciated and valued in my working life. It is a testament to the staff and the overall culture of St Luke’s Hospice. I’m so grateful to work in such a kind, giving and embracing place.

Sadly in October, I have to move on to another setting to continue my training, but the impact of working in such an incredibly supportive, innovative and loving environment will never leave me.

Of course, the creation of such an environment wouldn’t be possible without donations, our volunteers, and our friends for life – they are the heartbeat of the organisation, the sturdy foundations on which we build our walls. They have touched thousands of peoples’ lives through their generosity and I think I speak on behalf of everyone when I say a heartfelt and sincere thank you.

Through the turbulent and unpredictable times of late, this sturdy foundation remains. As Seamus Heaney says “if my dear there sometimes seem to be old bridges breaking … never fear. We may let the scaffolds fall confident that we have built our wall.”  

Thank you.

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