Why I made the switch from fashion to looking after people with terminal illness

Justin King’s career has taken him from fashion design to Marie Curie community nursing. As he prepares to visit our Garden of Light, he explains what inspired him to make the change.

“I came to the UK to study at the London Centre of Fashion studies. I graduated in 1997 and worked as a pattern cutter/designer. But the salary was low and the job wasn’t what I expected it to be.

At the time, I was working a second job as a support worker at a day centre. It was really just to top up my income. But my interest in health was getting stronger. I wanted to move from fashion to healthcare. I plucked up the courage and enrolled in a nursing course in 1998. I received my degree in Adult Nursing in 2003.

I’ve worked at Guy’s Hospital in London as a Sexual Health Nurse, in the community, in nursing homes – even in a brain injury unit."

Overcoming my fears

"I started to see palliative care as the line I wanted to take. I’m interested in the support of the family, and issues that might affect the families of the patient, such as depression, anger, and challenging behaviours.

I’ve been with Marie Curie nearly two and a half years so far, and it’s been very good.

I was nervous before I started, but the training Marie Curie gives on managing issues families are worried about, such as pain relief and managing their mental health, was very good. It alleviated my fears!

My wife is from Ethiopia. She’s also a nurse, but specialising in other areas. We had our baby in July 2015, and we’re really happy. She might move into palliative care and become a Marie Curie Nurse one day too, which would be interesting!"

Justin visiting the Garden of Light in London's Paternoster Square

Positive psychology

"What approach do I take? I try and get information about the patient, and understand the anxieties of their family. It’s about building a rapport, and assessing needs. Doing what’s needed to make sure the patient is pain-free.

That fear you still get when you get called out, it shows I’m still human. But I can handle it. 

I call it ‘positive psychology’, helping to keep the patient and their family’s courage up. I address the whole process and how important it is for them to look after themselves. When it comes together, and the family and person receiving care are looked after – that’s where I get my joy from!

I’m passionate about my job. I always want to do more and I’m keen to keep studying. I’d encourage anyone interested in palliative care in nursing to go for it! I’m happy to say it’s been a rewarding for me.”

Justin is attending The Garden of Light, an installation of 2,100 daffodils. Each one represents a Marie Curie Nurse, symbolising the amazing care and support they give each year to nearly 32,000 people living with any terminal illness.  The garden celebrates their work as part of the Great Daffodil Appeal.