“Working at Demelza is like having a big fluffy towel wrapped around you, fresh out of the tumble dryer. That’s the level of comfort and support I feel as a nurse.
I worked for 26 years in the NHS; I started out as a play leader in a children’s ward before training as a Band 5 and later a Band 6 nurse, and eventually worked my way up to ward manager on a local paediatric ward. I’ve always had a passion for working with children and young people with complex needs and Demelza seemed the ideal next place to take things forward.
I love that we have the time to offer personalised care to the children at Demelza. When you arrive for each shift you find out who you’ll be looking after that day – along with a handover of important clinical information like when they need to be fed, what their medicine regime looks like, seizure protocols – and you know you’ll be with that one child for the entire day. You have a good overview of their individual needs, as well as what they like or don’t like, before you even start to care for them.
From then on, the day is structured around that child’s needs because you want them to get the most out of their stay. You might plan for them to have a swim in the hydro pool around their feed times, or maybe you’ll do some painting in the art room; often a child will want a more relaxed day which might mean watching a bit of TV. The point is that you’re there to meet their needs.
I’ve really learned how to read non-verbal cues since joining Demelza as well. Communication doesn’t just mean talking, and when you have the time to get to know a child you can learn what their facial expressions, noises, and gestures mean even if they can’t talk.
Demelza is so different to working in other healthcare settings – you’re not only providing acute medical care, but you’re also providing holistic support and a stable environment for these families to enjoy – and it’s given me opportunities to develop skills like that which I’ve never had before.
In 26 years, I’d never had to feed a child a blended diet using their gastrostomy (a small opening in the stomach lining that allows a person to be tube-fed); that was brand new to me when I came to Demelza, and it terrified me to begin with!
I learnt how to do this, and was supported as I learnt, by other nurses and healthcare assistants, some of whom have been at Demelza for many years and treat it like it’s second nature. There’s an amazing willingness at Demelza to welcome new people and to share knowledge and skills.
That support includes the sad days too; we offer care for children with life-limiting conditions and that means sadly, sometimes, a child in our care will die. The first time a child died after I joined Demelza, it was right around the anniversary of my brother dying. My colleagues were amazing – the care they provided the child and their family was so professional and so important, but what surprised me was that care extended to me as well.
I’m not used to working in an environment where you’re given the time and space to process when a bad thing has happened; the support I felt from my colleagues at that time was like a massive proverbial hug. I’ve only been at Demelza for a few months but it’s the most comfortable place I’ve ever worked. Not only that but it’s a real privilege to be trusted with the care of the babies, children and young people we support, and I can’t imagine being anywhere else now."
Lorraine, Demelza nurse