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Palliative care nurse began career as a midwife

A palliative care nurse, who has also worked as a midwife, has spoken of her pride at having worked from the cradle to the grave as she marks International Nurses Day.

Paramjit (Pam) Roberts, has been a registered nurse since 1973, working in midwifery, practice nursing and district nursing.  She has worked as a Marie Curie Nurse in Wrexham and Flintshire for the past 12 years.

Marie Curie provides care and support to people living with any terminal illness, and their families in their homes or in one of 9 hospices across the UK.

It was when working as a district nurse that Pam came across the Marie Curie team – which sparked a passion in her for palliative care

Pam now works night shifts, either as part of the planned variable team – going into people’s homes from 10pm to 7am to provide respite support for families of people living with a terminal illness – or, her main role is as part of the Rapid Response team Out Of Hours department at Wrexham Maelor Hospital.

A call to the Rapid Response team  will see a Marie Curie Nurse carry out a home visit to help manage symptoms such as overcoming breathing difficulties, pain, nausea or agitation or provide support and advise over the telephone.

Speaking about the privilege she feels to be with families during end of life, Pam said:

“I just feel that the patient and the family have been so brave and courageous to have the chance and make the choice of spending their last stages of their illness at home.  We are there to offer physical, emotional, psychological, spiritual and moral support to them, to help them through this journey, giving them the chance to have what they want at home.

“No two patients are the same, everyone needs individual, personalised care, respecting their wishes to ensure that they remain comfortable and pain free and in control of their dignity.”

As well as providing support for those living with a terminal illness and their families, the Rapid Response team – which has been running since 2009 – provide an important link with district nurses, GPs and local hospitals, complementing the work of professionals across the health sector in North Wales.

Talking about the differences between palliative care at home and other nursing areas she’s worked in, Pam said:

“It’s so much more relaxed for the patient and for the family.  Your focus is them. The family feel free to be able to talk and discuss any issues that they have got.  I am able to build a rapport with the whole family.

“The very first call-out I went to, the gentleman was dying and the family were so distraught. We waited with them and when it came to the last few moments, we left them to have private moment.  They called me back in after he died – they were just so grateful. They didn’t think that such a thing could ever happen in the middle of the night – that they could have somebody there for them. It was the very first call out that I did and the family actually said ‘The angels have arrived just in time’.  That phrase has stuck in my mind ever since.

“I’ve had the privilege to bring new life into the world where there have been tears of joy, and now I am with patients as they take their last breath – and there are tears of a different nature.”

To find out more about Marie Curie and the support they offer, visit www.mariecurie.org.uk