Hospice Care Week seeks to inform the public about hospice care throughout the UK. The theme for 2017 is “We are hospice care.” Here at Weston Hospicecare, we firmly believe that we are ALL hospice care, from the volunteers in our shops to the nurses on our In-Patient Unit. This week, we’ll be giving you a closer look at day-to-day life in our hospice, and we thought we’d start by introducing you to our new Consultant, Fiona Chiplen.
Fiona started working at Weston Hospicecare in September 2017, and as well as caring for patients in our In-Patient Unit, she also visits patients in the local community. Her job is crucial, varied, challenging and hugely rewarding. We caught up with Fiona to ask her some questions:
What does a typical day look like for you?
Fiona: I don’t know if there is such a thing as a typical day! But then I think that’s one of the great things about the job; you never know what’s going to happen. The structure of my day is that I come onto the In-Patient Unit and catch up with the team and see what’s been happening, then I catch up with the Community Nursing team and see what’s been happening there. There are meetings to go to, but the great thing about palliative care is that it’s a lot more responsive. Other areas of medicine are more structured; you do your ward round or you do your clinic, but palliative care is about being more responsive to what’s happening.
When I come in, there might be things to do on the In-Patient Unit, or I might need to make a home visit. I might have someone come to the hospice to see me, or I might go up to the hospital. So it’s very varied. Once a week I do a ward round, and we’re lucky here to be able to give people the time they need. So I spend time talking with patients, and listening to them, which is a big part of my job.
Why did you decide to become a Doctor?
Fiona: It’s such a cliché, but I just genuinely wanted to help people. People talk about the science of medicine and the art of medicine, and for me, it’s about the art of medicine. It’s about people, and it’s a massive privilege to have this insight into people’s lives. People trust you as a Doctor, they tell you things. As a Consultant, there’s always lots of other stuff to do; teaching, clinical governance and all sorts of management things that can take you away from the clinical side, but spending time with patients, relatives, and carers is the best part of the job.
What drew you to palliative care, and ultimately to Weston Hospicecare?
Fiona: When I was at University, I was interested in Oncology, and that was where I always assumed I would end up working. Then when I was a Junior Doctor, I spent a lot of time doing care of the elderly, and then I ended up doing an Oncology job. While I was doing that job, I worked very closely with a palliative care team in Glasgow, and that was when I realised that it was the palliative care side of things that I really wanted to get into. I felt that was where I belonged; spending time with people and understanding them. I think that the way we are trained means we learn to spend a lot of time focusing on symptoms, taking history, making plans and so on. As Doctors, we spend so much time in hospital that it’s easy to forget that it’s actually a very small part of people’s lives. They’ve got a whole other life that actually happened before we got involved, and that’s what appealed to me about palliative care; looking at the bigger picture and seeing the whole person. I personally find that very fulfilling. I think the measured approach suits my personality. To work in palliative care, you also need a great sense of humour, and a certain perspective on life.
As for Weston Hospicecare, I moved from Aberdeen to Somerset for family. I saw the job at Weston Hospicecare advertised and came to look around. I think there’s such a great feel to the place; since being here, it’s been such a welcoming, warm environment to come into, and I feel really privileged to be part of the team here. Everyone’s been really welcoming, and I think it says a lot about Weston Hospicecare that everyone is so happy here. Going forward, I’d like to make sure we continue meeting the needs of the community, looking after people not just with cancer, but with many other life-limiting illnesses as well.