"My name’s Lia, and I work in the Community Team at Demelza’s East Sussex Hospice; I’m a fully registered nurse trained in paediatrics, with a further specialism in neonates – a field that covers care for premature or very unwell babies.
"Neonatal care is where I got my start in nursing (donkey’s years ago!), and I most commonly dealt with babies who were born from 27 weeks of pregnancy, so about 13 weeks early; they are the tiniest and most fragile little things you can imagine. As you can imagine, it’s very high-intensity work. There’s the clinical side, where you administer medications and specialised care to help this poor little baby get the best possible start in life considering their circumstances; then there’s the family side, where you’re offering support and resources to a family going through something totally unimaginable. I would often take on the transition period as well when babies would be discharged and sent home with their parents at last. That discharge work was very complex and involved coordinating with parents, the multidisciplinary care teams out in the community, and other healthcare professionals to ensure the baby and their family had the best support they could ask for once they left the relatively sheltered hospital setting.
"I found that the most interesting – and simultaneously heart-breaking – cases were the children who were not only born prematurely but who also had complex and potentially life-limiting conditions, which is how I ended up at Demelza. Because of the work Demelza are doing to catch referrals at the earliest possible opportunity, it’s not uncommon for families I work with during my shifts at the local neonatal ward to get a referral to Demelza upon discharge if their child has a complex condition. At that point, when everything is very new and uncertain, I’m a familiar face; they’re able to put their trust in me, knowing that I understand exactly what their little one needs, and it puts them at ease at a very difficult time.
"There’s a lot of signposting to be done for these families too because it’s a big wide world beyond the neonatal unit and they might have no idea where to start if they’re looking for support. Demelza offers a lot, whether that be care at home for families who need support in their day-to-day lives, family support which covers a whole range of therapies and group sessions, or even looking at preschools and education further down the line, so I help them make sense of it all. My role with Demelza isn’t just clinical paediatric care and it’s certainly not all end-of-life care (despite people’s preconceptions, end-of-life care only represents a fraction of the work we do) – it’s about supporting families in the way that will be most helpful to them at that moment. The variety certainly keeps it interesting!
"Demelza is very diverse in terms of the skills we bring to the table, and I think that makes us a very strong organisation when it comes to the care we can provide. If someone has a question about neonatal cases I’m able to help because I have years of expertise in that field, and in turn, I’m able to ask questions about learning disabilities or nutrition or any number of other areas of healthcare and there will be a colleague who has the answer. We’re actively encouraged to seek out those learning opportunities as well, with new courses and training being offered internally whenever it seems that there’s a gap that needs to be filled. Just recently we attended a behavioural training course led by Liz, one of Demelza’s learning disability nurses, and we’re now more knowledgeable and better equipped to care for children with learning disabilities and behavioural disorders.
"The impact that has on our families, and the level of expertise and care we’re able to offer, as a result, is something I’m very proud of."