I think that nursing is one of the noblest of professions. For me it is not just a job, it is a vocation.
When my husband’s military career meant that we had to move to Minsk, palliative nursing was far from my mind but, once I began working at the Belarusian Children’s Hospice (BCH), I quickly realised that the main qualities of a palliative care nurse are kindness and empathy. It was these qualities, not the material side of things, which led me to continue down this career path.
A palliative nurse sees and gets to know the patients far more than the doctor and it is she, like no other, who can bring comfort to the young patients and their parents. The main thing is always to have the interests of your patient uppermost in everything you do.
I am the manager of the Respite Programme at BCH. Respite care is when the hospice steps in to care for a sick child for several days or weeks in a row to allow the parents or main carers some time off to rest or attend to other business. I think it is vitally important that not only the parents and hospice staff but other people involved in the child’s life should also understand the important role that respite care plays. The children enjoy respite care and think of it as a holiday.
I am also the co-ordinator of what we call our Pilot Programme (which, after naming it, we found to be a misnomer). Let me explain. The Pilot Programme is a very important part of my work as it is the service we offer to patients and families living far from Minsk. These families are more isolated and so feel emotionally vulnerable. My task is not just to physically stabilise the ill girl or boy but to provide emotional and moral support for the parents too as I am the only BCH person they will see for months at a time.