‘Life may not be the party we hoped for, but while we’re here, we might as well dance’

To celebrate this year’s International Nurses Day (Tuesday May 12), St. Luke’s Hospice in Basildon is sharing the inspiring journey of one of its long-standing staff members.

International Nurses Day is an annual awareness day organised by the International Council of Nurses to showcase the important role that nurses play in society.

Director of Care and Quality at St. Luke’s Hospice, Sharon Quinn, has been a member of staff at the hospice for eight years and has held a variety of different positions during that time.

Sharon reflected on her journey as a nurse and the way nursing has shaped her as a person.

Tell us a little about our journey through nursing

I started my training in January 1985 at Newham School of Nursing as it was then. Once qualified, I worked for ten years in HIV/AIDS, initially at specialist London treatment centres and latterly as a clinical nurse specialist.

In the mid-late eighties and early nineties the care offered to people with HIV/AIDS was very much palliative as sadly we didn’t have the range of therapies we have now to treat people.

Palliative Care was always my passion and other posts included Community Macmillan Nurse, Hospital Macmillan team leader and Lead Cancer Nurse before starting at the Hospice.

What made you want to be a nurse?

I always wanted to be a nurse, from a young age. I come from a family of nurses, so I guess it’s in my genes! My dad died from lung cancer when I was 21, near the end of my training, which I feel influenced my choice to specialise in cancer and palliative care nursing once qualified. For me it cemented the importance of good symptom control for patients, the support for families facing the loss of a loved one and the difference that can be made by offering high quality holistic care.

What is the best part about your job?

I have absolutely loved my career and learnt so much from the people I have had the privilege to care for. I have carried a bit of each of them with me and they have made me the nurse I am today.

Being with a patient and their family at what is the most challenging and difficult time of their life is both humbling and incredibly rewarding. Yes, it can be stressful and sad at times, but knowing you have made a difference, however small, has offered the greatest job satisfaction.

Working as part of a cohesive team is also important, supporting each other and sharing laughter and tears together. I have worked with many fantastic colleagues over the years who I now consider lifelong friends.

Saying you’re a nurse working in a hospice can sometimes be a conversation stopper in social circles, as people often comment on how sad it must be to work there. Contrary to what many people believe, the hospice can be a happy and joyous place to work. Working here allows you to help people achieve their goals in the time they have left, enjoy special celebrations and truly live until they die – a philosophy we would all be wise to live by.

Despite current challenges within health and social care, nurses are continuing to make a difference to people’s lives on a daily basis. Kindness, compassion and commitment are the cornerstones of nursing and we have a duty and a responsibility to sustain this passion to provide excellence in care.

After 35 years in nursing, I still feel that this is a great career choice and is one I cannot recommend highly enough to anyone thinking of embarking on what is a fantastic, enlightening and incredible journey.

How do you like to unwind?

After a stressful day, I love to be at home with my family, socialising with friends or going for long walks with my dog, Rudy. My career has helped me keep some perspective on life’s challenges and emphasise the importance that life isn’t a rehearsal so we should live it to the full. One of my favourite sayings is ‘Life may not be the party we hoped for, but while we are here, we might as well dance’ … and how wonderful it is for all of us to dance while we have the chance.

St. Luke’s Hospice in Basildon provides compassionate care to people in Basildon, Thurrock and surrounding areas, whose illnesses are no longer curable. During the pandemic, St. Luke’s Hospice is continuing to care for people at the hospice, in their own homes, and through virtual support services, such as over the phone counselling.

To keep up-to-date with developments at St. Luke’s Hospice, follow the Hospice on social media, @StLukesHospiceB on Twitter and Instagram and @stlukeshospicebasildonthurrock on Facebook.

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Mick Ferris

Editor Email: [email protected]