Tom Davis, from Shrewsbury, first joined the hospice as a steward, acting as part of a team to provide maintenance support and working to ensure everything runs smoothly at our hospice buildings.
After seeing firsthand the difference our care makes to local people, Tom decided to retrain and became a nursing assistant at our hospice in Shrewsbury.
“I started at the hospice in May 2010 as a steward. At first it was just a way of earning a bit of extra money but I soon realised that it was a bit more than a job at the hospice,” says Tom. “As a steward you look after the wards and make sure they have what they need, you fetch the prescriptions for the patients, do a bit of maintenance work and you help the appeals team. You are a link in a big chain.”
After a chat with one of our ward managers, Tom took a big decision to change his career.
“In October 2011 I was working at the hospice in Telford and got chatting with Rachel Short, she suggested I think about becoming a nursing assistant. I had an interview and got onto a six day voluntary course to see if I liked the job and whether they liked me. I ended up doing 10 days I enjoyed it that much. After my first day I left with a big smile on my face and I thought this is what I want to do. I did my ten days and I got signed off to say I was competent to go onto to be one of the bank nursing assistants.
“I saw a job for a nursing assistant, not thinking that I would even get an interview, I applied for it and got the job which was a dream come true.
“I’ll never forget my first day, I was actually late. When I was doing a late bank shifts I would always start at 3pm so thought I was starting at 3pm. I got a phone call at 1.30pm asking ‘where are you?’ The penny dropped like a tonne weight, I was meant to be on the ward by 1.30pm. Luckily I was only five minutes away so I was only 15 minutes late. A profound apology, red face and a few giggles, everyone was very understanding. Never been late for anything in my life and I was late for my very first shift in my new career. From there on in it went alright.”
Despite being sure nursing was the career for him, Tom was initially apprehensive about how he would cope looking after patients who were near the end of their life.
“At that point I had never dealt with someone who was at the end of life,” he says. “ I didn’t know how I would deal with that. For someone who cries at Coronation Street I thought there was going to be a few tears but a few words of wisdom from the staff put things into perspective.
“From the word go I was made to feel like I was part of the team. As a nursing assistant you have the time to spend with the patients getting to know them. You talk about what they are expecting and what they are not expecting sometimes. You find out how they want to spend the last few days of their life, which I think is really important. A lot of patients worry about pain and how their relatives are going to cope. If you can do anything to help them come to terms with any of those things it means a lot.
“The nice thing for me is the fact that sometimes you see people go home. My first impressions of a hospice were that people just come here to die, but it’s much more than that.”
For Tom, some of the most rewarding parts of his new job are the little things that our caring team do for our patients and their loved ones, which help to make a real difference to those in our care.
“We had a gentleman in staying with us, he was very keen on horticulture and did a lot of gardening,” Tom says. “One day his partner brought in some runner beans he had grown and asked if we could do anything with them for them. We got the kitchen to cook them for him and when he ordered his lunch we put them in a little side dish for him labelled ‘Simon’s beans’. We took it in to him and the smile on his face is one of those moments you treasure. You could see it meant a great deal to him.
“There’s a lot of laughter that goes on here. People think of the hospice as a scary and sad place but it’s far from it. People say that coming down that road to the hospice is the most frightening part of their life but when they get here they think it’s the best place in the world.
“Eight months in I’m still learning and enjoying every minute of it. Every morning I get up I look forward to coming to work. I never had that feeling before, it’s absolutely tremendous.”