My Mantra: Insights from Gwen, a Hospice Community Nurse Specialist

Mantra: Do small things with great love (and receive small things as great love!)

We all make choices every day. Doing the work that I do, my every day is magnified as to how precious it is. I’m very aware that life can be cut short, and I don’t assume that I’ll live till 70. I know I have no control over it all, but I can control my perspective. I can draw out the good things that happen (like seeing a stranger smile). This outlook brings an element of gratitude into my life. Big things can be awful or overwhelming — bills to pay, health issues to deal with — but if I focus on the small things, name a few each day, that’s good.

I’m always asking myself what little thing can I do to make a difference? There’s always at least something that can be done, even if it’s just asking for help for someone who feels they can’t ask on their own or just being there to listen. I want to always give a sense that the person feels valued, that they know I’m listening and am alongside them in a difficult situation. And I want to help make sure loved ones know how to do that, too. People can give off vibes without realizing it, but try to just stay there, allow the person to express their feelings, and try to understand and put yourself in their shoes. It does get overwhelming sometimes, but as long as I can put both of my feet on the ground, I can remain there for them.

Because I’m a nurse, I know some people might not always feel comfortable discussing their emotions with me. That’s why I always ask myself, ‘Am I the right person to help this person?’ Although I’m happy to provide emotional support, I always look at who would be the best person to help that person. If I’m not it, there’s a team of us. It may be that our counsellors or our chaplain might be better. That helps me, and it helps them.

My goal is always make sure I’ve done something for everyone I visit. It’s the little things that can be a gift to them. For example, one lady is in a care environment and can’t leave her room, but she loves takeout coffee. I’m going to bring her a fresh cappuccino — prepared exactly the way she likes it from the local shop — next time I see her. The action, the effort, getting that for them, that can be the highlight of their day.

Gwen, Hospice Community Nurse Specialist at Weston Hospicecare