Meet Chris, a clinical nurse specialist at Birmingham St Mary’s Hospice. In her role, Chris cares for people who have been diagnosed with life-limiting illness by offering support in their own home or in community locations, such as our Satellite Clinics. She does this by listening to an individual’s needs, helping to ease any pain, and offering advice, so that they are able to live well and make the most of their life.

As the Hospice is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year, Chris decided to take on an exhilarating 10,000ft skydive to help raise awareness and funds for the vital services the Hospice provides. Read her story, here…

I’ve been a clinical nurse specialist at the Hospice for over 18 months and I can say with confidence that I love my job. The work that we do is absolutely a team effort – in fact, one of my favourite parts of the job is seeing people from different departments come together to support others. 

We normally begin by getting referrals from GPs, hospitals, and district nurses for people who have been diagnosed with a life-limiting illness and who would benefit from hospice services. Once we’ve identified that person’s needs, we then collaborate with other departments at the Hospice to provide support that is completely tailored to them.

As a clinical nurse specialist, I tend to care for people in their own homes or at one of our Satellite Clinics across Birmingham and Sandwell. Much of my job involves listening; listening to what is important to that person and listening to what matters most to them. My main goal is to make sure that people can live their lives to the best of their ability, which could involve supporting them to go on a family holiday, giving them the confidence to complete a bucket list, or helping them to remain independent and at home.

As well as visiting people at home, I also support people at one of our Satellite Clinics. We have three clinics which are based in GP surgeries across the city. Some people are still quite nervous about receiving hospice care, mainly due to negative preconceptions they might have, so the Satellite Clinics provide a neutral environment for them to get initial advice and information. It’s about making sure people are comfortable and feel in control of the support they are receiving.

As well as providing care myself, I also advise patients about other Hospice services which might benefit them. For example, I know a lot of people enjoy coming to the Day Hospice – which offers a 12-week therapeutic programme of care – as it helps individuals retain their independence and allows them to meet other people going through similar situations. I also signpost the less well-known services that the Hospice provides, such as our team of social workers who can help patients and their families with their financial matters. We definitely have a well-connected web of teams with different specialities who all centre around the same goal: delivering quality care to people when they need it most.

The best part of my job is that feeling when everything comes together – it’s that moment when we’ve all worked with each other to give a patient exactly what they need. I believe in the importance of being able to live and die with dignity, and I am glad to be a part of that process. Some days can be really trying due to the nature of the work, but I know that what I do is worthwhile and I’m really glad to be part of such an incredible team.

As the Hospice turned 40 this year, I decided to take on a new challenge and go skydiving. I think because I’m close to 50 myself, I thought I would do something daring and new, and raise some money for the Hospice whilst doing it. My kids were shocked that on the day of the skydive I wasn’t nervous at all, but they know that I’m bonkers!  

On the morning of the jump, I was like a kid at Christmas - I was just really excited! I jumped from a 10,000 foot height, with the first half being a free fall. The minute I landed I wanted to go back up again- it was such a great feeling.  At the end of the day the instructor said to me it was the first time he’d had anyone talk the whole way down!

I don’t think I would have had the chance to do something like this without the support of the fundraising team at the Hospice. They were so wonderful in helping me fundraise and even came to watch me take the jump on the day. They’ve inspired me to keep taking on new challenges and pushing myself – I think wing walking is next! I’d encourage everyone to take on a fundraising challenge, whether it’s something outside of your comfort zone or a long-time hobby. 

Thank you Chris for your bravery in taking on this challenge! If you’d like to find out more about the care we provide in people’s homes, please take a read here. Or, if you’ve been inspired by Chris and would like to take on your own daring fundraising challenge, see what exhilarating adrenaline challenges we have here.