‘A strange time to come into nursing – but I love it.’

New John Taylor Hospice nurse Tony O’Reilly shares his experience of beginning his nursing career at John Taylor Hospice during COVID-19.

“I’m 51 now and having spent most of my working life in the steel industry I decided I wanted a career change. I had inadvertently been caring all my life, as my eldest sister Sharon was born with both physical and mental disabilities and our family had always cared for her. She’s now 53 and it was my family who suggested nursing as a career as they had all seen how much I cared for my sister.

I started as a health care assistant at Heartlands Hospital and had thought I would probably go into a nursing career at a hospital but then in my second year of university I had a placement at John Taylor Hospice. That put a serious spanner in the works of my plans because I absolutely loved it at John Taylor. I had never thought about working in palliative care but by the time I finished my 12-week placement I knew that John Taylor Hospice was the place I wanted to work.

When I was coming towards the end of my four years of training, I was emailing the hospice to see if there were any jobs and then thankfully, I heard back that they were interviewing, so I applied. I was delighted when I got the job and I started mid-March.

Palliative and end of life care isn’t easy but, when you see it done right, you realise what that means for people. John Taylor Hospice is such a warm and caring place – everything is about caring for the patients.

It’s funny because it’s an older building, rather than some amazing new facility, and yet it’s the warmest place I’ve worked. This hospice is fantastic and it’s that which drew me here. I can honestly say John Taylor Hospice is as good as it gets.

I won’t lie, starting during coronavirus has been tough. The transition to a full-time position hasn’t been as straightforward as it normally would have been, and I would be nuts not to say I have some worries about being a front-line nurse at this time. But we’ve chosen this profession because we want to care, and this is a time when people need that care, besides, as long as we are wearing the right personal protection equipment and taking all the necessary precautions we should be safe.

It’s also been hard because I love the patient and family contact, that’s why I became a nurse, and that is harder when you’re dressed in PPE or there are less families visiting. It’s just not the same as it would normally be.

But there is really good support here. Even when I was on my placement I felt really supported and now, as a newly qualified nurse, I feel I can turn to anyone for help or advice. If you ask a colleague something, they never say they are too busy, they will always help. If you have a tough day everyone just gets on with things together and the other nurses do tell you when you’ve done a good job and that makes you feel valued.

It’s been a strange time to come into nursing but I absolutely love it.”

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What our patients think

“The care was second to none”

“At such a heartbreaking and difficult time, the nurses and care assistants knew exactly what to do and to say – we’d have been lost without them. The care they provided for my beautiful wife was second to none and I’ll be forever grateful.”

Roger Perks

“Nothing is too much trouble”

“I can’t thank hospice teams enough. From fitting grab rails in my house and ordering a reclining bed, reviewing of all my medication, providing me with new medical equipment and even helping to organise domestic help for us at home – they’ve covered everything but are always willing to do even more.”

Jackie Bannister

“I don’t know where I’d be without them”

“The support I get is truly is invaluable and I honestly don’t know where I’d be without them. I’m able to talk openly about my illness and ask for advice and support if I need it. I’ve made some incredible friends and the hospice is a very special place full of laughter and kindness. “

Liz Warren

Hope and Healing Appeal