A Day in the Life of a Hospice Clerical Officer

12 September 2020

Karen Patterson is a Clerical Officer at Northern Ireland Children’s Hospice and has been with Hospice for almost a decade. We recently caught up with Karen as part of Palliative Care Week 2020.

Earlier this year, Karen’s father Charles was a patient at Northern Ireland Hospice. Her daughter, Rachel, kindly shared her thoughts about the care Charles had received. Her video can be viewed here

What does your role entail? 

I work as Clerical Officer providing clinical admin support for Children’s Hospice.  I am based in reception and provide back up to volunteer receptionists.  I feel this an important role as the volunteer on duty and I are the first people to meet families face to face on arrival at Horizon House.  I always try to take time to chat to families and help with any luggage they may have for their supported stay at Hospice.

What does Palliative Care mean to you?

It means ensuring a child or adult has the best care and experience available, and at the end of life, the best death possible.

Grace Stewart, our Head of Clinical Services at Horizon House once said: “We cannot change the outcome, but we can make it the best experience for the child and their family”. 

In an end of life scenario you remember every single thing that happens, good and bad, so it is vital to do our best to make it as easy as possible for all involved.

I recently lost my father and we were lucky enough to get him from hospital into Hospice for his last few hours. 

The difference between good palliative acre and bad palliative care was so evident to us as a family.  If we hadn’t our memories of those hours in Hospice to sustain us, I really don’t think we could have coped. 

From the moment he arrived he was the centre of everything. He was treated with such kindness and gentleness as were the family. 

COVID-19 measures made things more difficult, but hospice managed to deliver first class care to dad, keeping us involved and informed all the way. 

Any discussions about treatment or pain relief took place away from dad so he wasn’t upset in any way. They ensured he was pain free and sleeping peacefully.

I had the privilege of some of my colleagues from NICH looking after dad, and they were superb.  Such love and respect shown to a man they had only known for a few hours will stay with me forever.

How important is the ‘team’ approach to delivering palliative care?

As a member of the clerical staff I still feel I can do my part in the palliative care process. 

Small things like ensuring everything is in order for admissions, families being welcomed with a smile and a helping hand, and ensuring the boring things, like purchase orders, are in place so the fun stuff can happen!

Palliative care is lots of different skills and services coming together to make sure everything happens seamlessly.  Children and family always come first.

 What does Hospice mean to you?

Hospice means allowing a family to care only for themselves and their child while everything else is taken care of by us. Comfort, fun and memory-making are top of the list in Horizon House.

 How would you describe working at Hospice?

The best! I am very proud to be part of this organisation.  When you tell someone where you work, they usually say, “I don’t know how you do that job”. 

 My answer back is that it is so much fun 99% of the time, and even in the sad times Hospice comes into its own.