In the end, it’s all about balance...

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A Speaker’s Corner contribution by Barbara van Brummen

Dying is not a disease or a diagnosis, but a normal process in our lives, an event as natural as birth.

Patients nearing the end of life, and their families, treasure the time they can spend together. Every day is precious.

Families also place great importance on receiving the right professional support. Research has shown that nurses who have time not only to administer care, but also to be present with patients and their families during this important life process, are particularly valued.

This holistic, nurturing approach helps to normalise end of life care. In hospitals, palliative care too often becomes medicalised, structured around the needs of the institution. Nurses have insufficient time for ‘being with’ their patients, and they can feel dissatisfied at the level of care being provided.

Working as a palliative care nurse in the community with Rennie Grove Hospice Care, I value having the time to sit at the bedside, and accompany my patients and their families.

I also see the benefits for families of nursing support that enables a loved one to remain at home.

At Rennie Grove, we strive to eliminate the distress of unnecessary hospital admissions and to give our patients the choice to live a good quality life at home for as long as possible.

We provide care on a scheduled and 24-hour responsive basis every day of the year.

Around 60 per cent of our patients are able to spend their final days at home, compared with just 20 per cent nationally.

We have a number of clinical nurse specialists, and so are able to provide specialist care as well as hands-on practical nursing.

For me, it is that combination of hospice at home care and specialist nursing knowledge that makes my job with Rennie Grove so rewarding.

Demand for the services provided by Rennie Grove continues to grow throughout Dacorum and beyond the borough.

But, sadly, such support is not available to everyone. Rennie Grove could not continue without the generous support of our donors and volunteers, and in some parts of the country there is no such provision.

With a colleague from Buckinghamshire New University, Lauren Griffiths, I recently published research into the experiences of palliative care nurse specialists and midwives.

We found that where birth and death had been medicalised, nurses were left feeling dissatisfied with the care they were able to give.

Lauren and I concluded that it is essential to recognise that birth and death are natural life events and to achieve a balance between biomedical intervention and the delivery of holistic care.

If you share my aspiration for everyone at the end of life to have the choice to remain at home for as long as possible, please support Rennie Grove in whatever way you can.

Barbara van Brummen is a clinical nurse specialist in the Dacorum nursing team at Rennie Grove Hospice Care. Call 01442 890222 for more information or click here to visit the website

Barbara’s research is published in full in the International Journal of Palliative Nursing 2013, Vol 19, No 2