40 Faces of hospice care | Meet Shirley Vickers, a Nurse at St Barnabas

25th August 2023

A lady, Shirley Vickers, who is a Staff Nurse at the St Barnabas Hospice Inpatient Unit in Lincoln, photographed in black and white, against a black backdrop

When St Barnabas Hospice opened on Lindum Terrace in Lincoln, Shirley immediately applied for a nursing job. Watching her father die in hospital without any symptom management was one of the most awful experiences of her life, and the catalyst for joining the Hospice so she could prevent these situations for other patients. Thirty-eight years later, and Shirley is still part of the St Barnabas family.

End-of-life care was a new concept back then and she was given the opportunity to learn from the best – Dame Cicely Saunders, founder of the hospice movement, who Shirley met on a visit to St Christopher’s Hospice in London as part of a learning experience.. In the years that followed, through St Barnabas, Shirley has been able to pass her knowledge to the next generation of nurses and other healthcare professionals spending time at the Hospice learning about exemplary end-of-life care.

Given her dedication, it was only right that Shirley was one of the nurses chosen to meet Princess Diana when she visited the Hospice. The days leading up to it were busy with security teams and caring for patients. So much so that Shirley and her colleague slipped a sausage from the food trolley into their pockets to eat later, instead of lunch. They didn’t think anything of it when the security team came in with sniffer dogs doing a sweep of the offices – until the dogs got very excited! The security team sprang into action only to discover the commotion was caused by the snaffled sausage and Shirley and her colleague got a telling off!

Luckily Shirley is more used to hearing ‘thank you’ than being told off. One patient said it with flowers and chocolates proudly walking into the Hospice wearing his war medals. The gentleman lost a leg in the war and needed a new artificial one when his stopped functioning. But a cancer diagnosis meant his doctor decided it wasn’t going to happen. Fortunately, the gentlemen came to the Hospice for pain management and our doctor thought differently. A few phone calls later and several trips to Nottingham with Shirley to fit the leg, the patient got his wish – to walk again.

Today, Shirley is a Bank Nurse at St Barnabas having tried to retire shortly before the Covid-19 pandemic. Realising the challenges patients, their families and her colleagues were about to face, she stepped up to support them once again. And we think that says it all about Shirley.

In her own words… “It’s a privilege to be with someone at the end of their life and to give them the care they deserve and provide symptom management to allow someone to go home and have quality time with their loved ones. I greatly admire the team I work with; they are like a second family to me, I’ve got friends for life from the Hospice. The courage and strength of patients and families that I have nursed over the years have amazed and inspired me, and the support of my work buddies are my strength and stay. Will I retire? Maybe one day…”

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