“I’ve learned that no matter how long you do the job it can still affect you”
Bindi Poonia shares her thoughts on what she has learned working as a Marie Curie Nurse.
The job can sometimes be tough
I recently cared for a patient whose daughter was 21, which was the same age I was when I lost my own mum. My mum was a diabetic. She came in one evening, had her tea, played with my son, went off to bed and had a heart attack. She was rushed to hospital but died seven days later. It was a very sad, emotional time.
This girl wanted her mum to wear a red dress that she’d chosen herself. I helped her get her mum dressed. It was so touching how she was talking to her – she was telling her “you are my best friend, you are my sister”.
She finally went to sleep for about two hours, and then I woke her up at the right time so she could spend those last hours with her. It brought it all back for me and the tears started rolling down. We are all human beings and it does affect you.
Small things can make a big difference
One lady I cared for told me she loved having her hair and nails done. It was something she would normally have made sure she did regularly. But she had a brain tumour and was losing her eyesight. I remember I was holding her hand and she said, “I’ve always loved getting my nails done and I now sometimes ask my daughter to do them for me”.
So to relax her, I did her nails. I massaged her arms and hands too while we just chatted. It was something that made her feel like herself and I was happy to do it.
You never know how a shift will go
One night, a gentleman I was caring for was feeling worried and couldn’t sleep. What he wanted was to watch a horror movie. Now, I don’t like horror movies, but I said ok to keep him company.
About 3am, he said he was hungry. He asked for a bacon and sausage sandwich so I made one, only the fire alarm went off because of all the smoke! So it’s 3am and he’s eating a bacon and sausage sandwich, and we’re watching a horror movie – you really don’t know how a shift is going to go. It was brilliant.
You’re there for the family too
As a Marie Curie Nurse, you are there to support the family as well. They tell you things in confidence, things they don’t want to tell other people in case it upsets them.
When you finish your shift family members will often give you a hug. They might just hold your hand to say thank you. When they’ve had a rest and a break, they give you a warm smile and you think “I’ve done something here” and that does feel good.
Some people send really lovely notes and things. I do sometimes go to funerals if I’ve been invited. Then you realise that you have really touched that family.
Different cultures approach death in different ways
Everyone is different. I cared for a lady who was only 43, and I remember her husband saying, “I don’t believe in God. Why would this be happening?” I just let him talk. I don’t push my own beliefs.
And, of course, I take into account other people’s views. Each religion – whether Muslim, Jewish, Hindu, Sikh or Christian – has different rituals when caring for people who are dying. I attended a course on different cultural practices and I am so glad I did. It was interesting and has been really useful – for instance, in some religions you can’t touch the person without gloves once they have passed away.