“I’ve learned not to be afraid of emotions... that’s what makes us all humans”

Blanka Aldridge shares her thoughts on what she has learned in her time working as Ward Sister at the Marie Curie Hospice, Hampstead

Live in the present and enjoy every moment.

Caring for people from different age groups makes you realise that illnesses can happen to anyone, at any age, and you can’t be sure what tomorrow will bring.

So I try to enjoy and appreciate my life, my friends and my family much more, and not have regrets on what I haven’t done. It’s also become more important for me to have inner peace, be contented with life, and have a job that I love – I’m lucky that my work at the hospice gives me great satisfaction.

Be honest with your feelings, and don’t be afraid to express them.

At the hospice, the people we look after are often dealing with all kinds of emotions – sadness, guilt, frustration and anger. I think it’s good to talk and not hold in all the emotions, or you’ll get too worked up and take it out on your nearest and dearest. You need to be able to express yourself, talk about how you feel, and explore the underlying issues – as I try to do with my patients and their relatives, and in my own personal life.

I’ve learned not to be afraid of emotions, whether they are mine or someone else’s. Sometimes, at the hospice, I might be in tears when I see the pain that people are going through. But that’s what makes us all humans – it shows we have compassion and empathy.

Small, simple things count the most.

We get lots of compliments from people we’ve helped and many of them are about the simple things that we get right – little touches like having fresh flowers to make our hospice feel more homely, or when people tell us how much they appreciate having one of our nurses just to sit with them and hold their hands.

We also try to make things as normal as possible for our patients. When we find out someone has a birthday, we organise a cake, have a little gathering and sing songs to celebrate.

People like to be thought about.

When one of our patients wasn’t eating much at all, I asked if she would like to try a milkshake. When she told me she fancied one, I made her one of our shakes – it’s a nutritional drink we offer to patients if they’re not eating well.

After that, whenever she heard my voice or saw my face, it made her day as she knew someone is thinking about her by making sure she has her milkshakes.

Caring for young people is never easy.

It’s always difficult for me whenever I’m looking after someone who’s much younger than me.

We cared for a 23 year-old man who was very poorly. But I remember the last thing he wanted was for anyone to feel sorry for him. He was so brave and had this amazing spirit to live, right until the very end. When he died, his brother knew he was happy at the hospice. All his relatives were also grateful he was comfortable and pain-free in his last days. This meant a lot to them as they were able to enjoy the good times of being together with him.

If you’re caring for someone, it’s ok to think about yourself and your own needs.

I usually ask family members to take care of themselves by eating well, getting some rest and going out for a walk, no matter how much effort all that may seem.

I also tell them we’ll always respect and support their decisions, so they can be comfortable making choices that feel right for them – like how much time they spend being with their loved one at the hospice.

A hospice is a very different place to a hospital.

I spent a year and half working in a central London hospital, where it’s such a busy environment. At our hospice, it’s much less hectic. Everyone who comes in thinks it’s so peaceful here.

As a nurse, you also feel you can really deliver the care that people deserve. It’s really satisfying that we have the time to support our patients and their families, and make each moment they spend with us as pleasant and memorable as possible.

Read more about Marie Curie Hospices and how we help people achieve the best possible quality of life.