Could you be a nurse for a day?

As a Hospice Manager, Hilary Ford spends her time overseeing the day-to-day running of our Marie Curie Hospice, Edinburgh. But she wanted to find out for herself what working a thirteen-hour shift as a healthcare assistant was like.

Hilary decided to spend a day shadowing colleagues in the hospice. “Before the day, I thought it would be useful to note down some expectations, hopes and fears”, says Hilary.

Expectations, hopes and fears

“I expected it to be a long day and to be incredibly tired by the end of the 13 hour shift, and that my feet would hurt!

“I expected the healthcare assistants would be happy to show me what to do and how I can help, and explain anything I don’t know – and that I’d get a better understanding of the pressures they face.”

“I wondered whether I’d be welcomed into the clinical setting, if I’d be able to do the job, and whether my expectations and hopes would be met.”

Hospice Manager Hilary Ford shadowed nurses and healthcare assistants for the day at the Marie Curie Hospice, Edinburgh
Hilary spent a day shadowing nurse and healthcare assistants at the Marie Curie Hospice, Edinburgh.

A calm and relaxed atmosphere

“I was lucky enough to be working when the wards weren’t full and there were a mixture of patients, not of all whom had high dependency needs. This meant that staff had time to spend with patients and families, and the whole atmosphere was calm and relaxed.

“I witnessed some lovely examples of person-centred care from the whole team, including the domestic staff. The healthcare assistants I worked with showed lots of compassion and hard work, and they were welcoming and helpful throughout the day.”

Helping with personal care

“I was able to help with personal care, including a bed bath and feeding a patient his lunch. Both these activities were time-consuming, and I can well imagine how challenging it would be to achieve this in a full ward, with high-dependency patients and buzzers going continually.

“Above all, it was a privilege to spend time on the ward with the staff and, with patient consent, to be able to help providing individual care.

“It was obvious that the sensitivity and gentleness shown by the nurse I worked with, when I helped her to give a bed bath to a patient, made this a hugely relaxing and pleasurable experience for the patient.

“It felt more like therapy than a task or chore, and emphasised to me the immense value of hands-on care provided in this person-centred way.”

Ending the day with a clear head

“I was ‘let off early for good behaviour’, so only worked from 7.30am until 7pm. I felt physically tired, but it was lovely to go home with a clear head and have a break from the mental pressure which comes from my day job.

“A huge thank you to the staff I worked with for all your support and encouragement.”

Hilary manages the Marie Curie Hospice, Edinburgh. She decided to do this experience as part of the hospice’s work with Queen Margaret University to develop a person-centred culture, including greater empathy and understanding of staff roles.