CELIA Markey knows Southern Area Hospice inside out, from the front door to the back, and all points in between.
Having been a nurse there for 20 years, she now volunteers at reception and I spoke to her on a recent visit ahead of International Nurses Day on May 12.
I asked Celia about her time at the hospice, which is 30 years old this September.
“I was in the Hospice from it started in 1989,” explained Celia.
“I was the first ward sister. I was on the wards for 10 years and then I went to day care – started it off, and stayed there for so many years.
“But I came back on the wards, and then I went onto community liaison. I retired 11 years ago, and then I thought I would go back and do a bit of voluntary work, and where better to go than the hospice, where I loved working. I loved every minute of it.”
That Celia is an inspirational figure is clear from the fact that not only did her daughter follow her into the nursing profession, her granddaughter has now also followed suit.
She said that she would recommend the job to any young person.
“My granddaughter has just been accepted into Queen's to do nursing,” said Celia.
“I encouraged her mother to be a nurse. And her daughter decided she was going to go into it, but my daughter advised her against it. But I said: 'You and I have loved nursing, so your daughter will love it too. I know she will, because she has the same personality'.
Another young lady who is just at the beginning of her nursing career is Auxiliary nurse Kirsty Stevenson. I asked Kirsty, who hopes to commence her training soon, what drew her to the profession.
“I've always wanted to work in the hospice,” said Kirsty. “I saw the job, and I thought I would apply for it to see what happens, and I got it.
“A lot of my family have had cancer and I have seen how the hospice has helped them through it. So, I just really wanted to come in and do it myself, to see if I could make a difference.”
Bernie Farrell, meanwhile, is a staff nurse of 18 years experience. She worked in cardiology in the Royal Victoria Hospital for 16 of those years. I asked her what being a nurse means to her. Her response spoke volumes of the vocational nature of this most important of occupations.
“Being a nurse means everything to me,” said Bernie.
“I enjoy getting up and going to work in the morning, I enjoy helping people. And more than that, I enjoy interacting with people on a daily basis.
“And I don't actually see the patients in the bed as patients. I see them as people that you chat to. Although I have a responsible role to care for people, and to be an advocate – it doesn't mean that I don't see someone as an individual.”
Another staff nurse in the hospice is Orlagh Loftus, who has also been working in Southern Area Hospice for two years, having qualified 17 years ago.
She told me that she has always had a keen interest in palliative care. She began her career in Daisy Hill, but felt that she would like to make the move to the type of nursing experience that the hospice can provide.
“I find it very rewarding,” said Orlagh.
“We've a great team here in the hospice and we do all support each other. It's a privilege, I think, to look after patients when they are at this stage of their life. They do need a lot of care and attention.
“It's a very frightening time for patients when they're diagnosed with cancer and they do come to the stage where there are no other treatment options available, and they have to turn to palliative care.
“And it certainly is a privilege to be able to look after them at this time.”
And asked what is the most important quality a nurse should possess, Orlagh unhesitatingly said: “Certainly for palliative nursing, you need a lot of compassion. You have to respect the patient's dignity. You have to just really understand when the patient needs time to talk.
“You have to take a step back sometimes and let them open up. Compassion and care is hugely important in any nursing, but especially so in palliative nursing.”
Fittingly, International Nurses Day takes place on the anniversary of Florence Nightingale's birth, a symbol of pioneering nursing. The day marks a celebration of the remarkable contribution that nurses make, not only to the medical profession, but to the lives of the patients and their families for whom they care for.
The CEO of the hospice, Liz Cuddy said she was “delighted” to celebrate the achievements of the nursing teams at Newry Hospice.
“We have an excellent team who work with patients and families at the most difficult times,” she said.
“The team greatly deserve the praise and recognition they get for the work that they do. As Chief Executive I am delighted to not only congratulate them but also to thank them for all that they do.”
Nursing Director Carmel Campbell added: “Celebrating International Nurses’ Day is a wonderful way to honour the invaluable work that our nurses do here at Southern Area Hospice Services.
“As the Nursing Director, I can see the dedication and compassion they bring to their roles, caring for patients and their families holistically, and ensuring that every person who visits Southern Area Hospice Services has a warm welcoming and peaceful experience.”
“Nurses deserve the recognition and praise that International Nurses’ Day offers. Although it is such a rewarding role, it does, of course, present its own challenges that are tough to deal with.
“Nurses are changing lives and looking after people who need care and support. This year, we should all take a moment or two to think about our gratitude for a nurse who has helped us, or one of our loved ones.”
If you would like to support Southern Area Hospice Services on International Nurses Day, Text: SAHS to:70060 to donate £3.