Senior Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS), Lisa Morris, has worked within community district nursing for a quarter century, including 11 years for Greenwich & Bexley Community Hospice.
A mum-of-four, 49-year-old Lisa says she is passionate about end-of-life care, and being able to give people the kind of peaceful death they wish for, at home – whatever ‘home’ looks like to them.
For Lisa job satisfaction means being able to support patients to achieve a ‘comfortable’ death in the place where they want to be. And at the same time knowing the peace of mind that this offers their families.
But it can also mean helping people to make precious memories. This was certainly the case with a gentleman that Lisa helped to care for recently, before he sadly died of cancer and dementia.
“Ken loved Spain, he and his wife, Christine, had a villa there,” Lisa explains. “They wanted to make one last trip and I managed to do a COVID swab so he could take this final journey. No one else would come out to do the swab, so even though it wasn’t strictly our job the hospice team did it because it was so important that he get to Spain.”
“His wife then sent me a lovely photo of him sitting in the sunshine with a hat on, a pint of zero alcohol beer and his pipe, with no tobacco in. He was just looking out to sea. His wife was so thankful that they were able to make some last memories, before it was too late. She wrote a card after her husband had died thanking the hospice nurses for ‘going above and beyond.’ That’s what this job is all about.”
Lisa joined the hospice in 2011 and is a CNS. She works for half the week in dementia palliative care and the other half in care home settings.
“Our role is about helping people to have a comfortable, peaceful death in the place of their choice,” Lisa says. “People don’t want to be in hospital, they want to be at home or perhaps in their care home – whatever ‘home’ means to them.”
Lisa now cares for many patients with advanced dementia, and the hospice nurses are seeing more and more people that have dementia as well as another terminal condition.
“Situations for these patients can really vary – some have private care, some are cared for by their children, but they might also be a 93-year-old wife looking after a 92-year-old husband,” Lisa shares.
“Pressures on carers have increased, especially during the COVID pandemic. But the hospice care team offers essential support. Our care is very family orientated and holistic. When we walk into a situation we want the best for everyone.”
The hospice care home team are also there to support colleagues working in other settings that have become very isolated, particularly over the past two years. Referrals to care homes are currently very high, so it’s a particularly challenging time for the sector.
Lisa says: “The hospice team go wherever we’re needed, covering up to 30 care homes. We carried on right throughout the pandemic, wearing PPE.”
“I’ve really felt for staff working in care homes. Only last week I was in a care setting speaking with one of the sisters, and in the whole unit of 22 patients, only five were clear of COVID. They’d had about six residents who had died in a few days and she looked so defeated.”
“The people they care for are like the staff’s second families and they’re tired, working 12-hour shifts and having to cope with incredible loss.”
Lisa’s team care for adult patients of all ages, including younger people with dementia and people with learning difficulties. “Our patient caseload is so varied now and so is the job. My role can also include looking at housing need, financial difficulties, whether someone is entitled to NHS funded care etc.”
“I spoke to a lady recently whose mum we were caring for and when I told her I was a palliative care nurse she cried. ‘Please do your magic’, she said. ‘Make my mum comfortable and help her to die where she’s happy and peaceful.’ That made me smile.”