What do you do here at Birmingham St Mary’s?
I am a Specialty doctor in Palliative medicine and work 3 days per week, mostly on the Inpatient Unit (IPU) and in the Day Hospice. I provide direct clinical care to patients and their families but also support the junior doctors, teach (both internally and externally) and work with IT to maintain and develop the clinical IT systems.
Have you always wanted to care for people?
I’ve always wanted to be a doctor but I started out wanting to be a GP.
When did you join Birmingham St Mary’s?
I joined the team in 2009 as a medical officer on a GP training rotation. I was here for 8 months and loved it! I was fortunate that there was an opportunity to apply for a more permanent position as my rotation placement ended. So I left my GP training and have not looked back.
Do you ever feel overwhelmed caring for people with terminal illnesses?
I find working at the hospice a real privilege and the clinical work is immensely rewarding. You can make a real tangible difference to patients and their families. Certain patients strike a chord with you and make you feel more emotional but that is a marker of providing compassionate care and does not feel overwhelming or burdensome.
What would you say to someone who thought hospices were just about death and dying?
I would say that looking after people at the end of life is certainly part of what we do. However, helping people to live well with a life limiting illness, improve quality of life and helping people to psychologically and spiritually prepare for their future is the majority of my hospice work.
How has working at Birmingham St Mary’s changed your own view of life and of death?
Working at the Hospice makes you aware of your own mortality and you develop an appreciation that none of us knows what lies ahead.
With over half of the Hospice’s funding coming from voluntary donations, have you ever done any fundraising before for Birmingham St Mary’s?
I bought a road bike, took up cycling and cycled from London to Paris last year and raised about £4000 in the process. I also recently took on my first ever abseil from the top of Park Regis Hotel as part of Fright or Flight!
What days are you working over the Christmas period?
The medical team take it in turns to cover the on call commitment over Christmas. So, I’ll be working on the 21st (on call), 22nd, 23rd (on call), 26th (on call), 28th, 29th, 30th (on call) in December.
How do you care for patients in the week leading up to Christmas?
We try to get as many patients home as possible and if discharge is not possible then we try to facilitate their wishes over Christmas, whether it be going home just for a couple of hours or having a family meal in our conservatory. We usually have music playing on the Inpatient Unit and have a local choir come in to sing carols to the patients. Decorations are put up around the Hospice so it’s more festive. It is a very poignant time on the Unit.
What is your favourite memory from working at the Hospice over the Christmas period?
I remember one rather ‘merry’ nun who came into the Hospice to sing Little Donkey last Christmas! The kitchen also do an awesome Christmas dinner, and there is normally so much food and chocolate on the IPU that it’s difficult to face Christmas dinner at home after a shift!
Thank you Dr. Becky for sharing your story with us and what it’s like at Birmingham St Mary’s during the Christmas period! To support the Hospice and local families living with a terminal illness, please get involved in our fundraising campaigns like the Christmas Poster. Click here to get your free poster today and spread the festive cheer with your colleagues and friends!