Former St Peter's Hospice nurse Carole Jenkins recalls what makes it so special
IT was in the autumn of 1978 that Carole Jenkins joined St Peter's Hospice. She was one of the first nurses who went to the homes of patients to give them medication to relieve the symptoms of terminal illness and spent five years working at the hospice, still visiting for ten years afterwards through the job she went into.
In the 35 years that have passed St Peter's Hospice has grown but she can see that some of the fundamental principles have stayed the same.
The atmosphere and ethos of the organisation that cares for people with terminal illnesses has withstood the years and the changes in location, along with the little special touches, such as flowers on dinner trays, that were always so important, she said.
Mrs Jenkins, of Portishead, had done quite a lot of work with elderly people, including a six-month course at Manor park Hospital, before it was suggested that she get involved with the hospice.
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She was approached by the chairman Andrew Urqhart in October 1978 and invited to join the team which was then based at Lawrence Hill Clinic, the 77-year-old said.
"The GPs at the new clinic let us have a room there and their reception staff took all the messages for us," Mrs Jenkins said. "We were regarded as home care nurses and used to visit patients in their own homes."
But initially she said the St Peter's Hospice nurses had to be careful not to be seen as treading on the toes of others.
"The main thing was to work together with the district nurses and any other community nurses because I think they thought we were first of all encroaching on their care," she said.
"It was very important that we could be accepted by them rather than it being them and us."
And that meant their focus was on giving medication to relieve patients' symptoms. "Really it was drug therapy," she said.
"Also we needed to be good listeners and we had the time to do that, which the district nurses didn't.
"If we had to spend half a day there we could. That is what they have managed to keep even now, which is what I think has made St Peter's Hospice successful."
After the charity took on St Peter's Lodge in Knowle the team of nurses, which by then had grown to four, moved into a room in the house that would later become the hospice.
"It all grew, the need was there and it was accepted that it was there," Mrs Jenkins said.
Over time another four nurses were taken on and two teams were created so they could cover different sides of the city so their time was not taken up with travelling.
"The main characteristics or ethos of the place has always been about care love and understanding and these went right across the board between nursing staff, patients, relatives and volunteers, she said.
"The ethos was definitely of people working together and all covering the different skills and learning from each other, and it was all done for the benefit of the patient. And it was also very important to speak to the patients and relatives and find out what they liked.
"We also appreciated the contact with the support committee from Robert Bourns' mother Joan Bourns. They were very supportive to us and could see we needed the support. When we were at Lawrence Hill, once a month Joan Bourns and a few others from the committee , which was gradually growing, would bring a basket of lunch down and we would all sit and have lunch together and share."
Mrs Jenkins said that after St Peter's moved to Knowle it had tremendous support from the residents who saw it as their hospice and always did.
"It was a special place and you knew as soon as you went in that it was a special place," she said
"It was a really happy place really, it might seem strange to say that , but it was. I think that helped patients get over their fear of death.
"I will always regard my time working at the hospice as my most memorable and privileged of my professional career."
â For more information or to support the work of St Peter's Hospice visit stpetershospice.org.uk or call 0117 915 9400.