Meet Amanda, Senior Nursing Support Worker at Rachel House, and find out how her role has adapted over the pandemic and why CHAS is the best place to work.
Senior Nursing Support Worker at Rachel House, Amanda Stark, recently turned 46 and celebrated her 24-year anniversary working at Scotland’s national children’s hospice service – CHAS. Amanda, of Auchtermuchty, Fife, shares what it has been like dedicating half of her life to caring for children with life-shortening conditions and their families, how her role adapted to COVID-19 and why CHAS is the best place to work.
“It’s a privilege to be working with families at their most vulnerable point.
“I’m a trained nursery nurse and one day I just felt compelled to knock on Rachel House’s door and ask if they had any jobs and they gave me an application form. It was the days before internet and about a month later, I got a letter through the post inviting me for an interview and it went from there.
“A lot has changed over the 24 years. We’re a lot busier now and the children have far more complex needs so my role has adapted to be more clinical. My skills have developed and I’ve had the opportunity to take on secondments in the activities and CHAS at Home teams. But no matter what I’m doing – the children and families come first and my role is taking care of them.
“The families are my favourite thing about working at CHAS and they’ve got to be admired. We look after the kids for a fraction of time and that might be a hard or busy day, but that’s the parents and children’s life every single day.
“My job has changed and not changed since lockdown. I assisted with our virtual hospice in the beginning, then families started to need homecare again. Initially everyone was understandably frightened to have anyone in their house. I now do a mix of homecare and virtual hospice.
“We are there to allow families to go for a much-needed lie down or out for a walk, or simply do the shopping. Some families have been shielding and isolating since last March; some haven’t ventured out of the house at all – having shopping delivered and no visitors whatsoever. The thought of going out of the house will be daunting and scary as lockdown measures ease again.
“The nicest bit of feedback during this time was a grandad saying to me that he would like to hold us hostage as we were like treasures to his family!
“I’ve had some amazing experiences over the years. A group of children we supported sang at the Glasgow City Chambers and I got to watch two brothers who I was keyworker for and didn’t know could sing – it gave me goosebumps. I got to go to T in the Park with a lot of the older lads. When I think of that I remember a load of smiling faces. I’ve had the opportunity to be part of family’s weddings - being part of those moments has felt so special.
“I was the baby of the team when I started and now I’m married with a 21 and 15-year-old. Rachel House feels like my second home. It’s a great place to work and be part of a team who strive every day to give the best care to those who need it.”
CHAS is the only charity in Scotland that provides hospice services for babies, children and young people with life-shortening conditions. The national charity offers palliative care and respite for the whole family via its two hospices, Rachel House in Kinross and Robin House in Balloch. The CHAS at Home service supports families in their own homes across the whole of Scotland and has teams working in communities and hospitals across the country.
Like many other charities left reeling from the COVID-19 pandemic, CHAS has had to dramatically transform the way in which it provides its increasingly important services. They have set up Scotland’s first ever virtual hospice to support children and families who are having to completely self-isolate.
The virtual hospice has now been operational for a year, offering families extensive assistance, whether it relates to clinical guidance, financial advice or bereavement support, by video and phone. CHAS family support teams are also offering an expanding range of interactive activities, art clubs, storytelling and conference calls to children and parents, with more in the pipeline.
Although safeguarding is very much in place as lockdown measures continue to ease, children needing urgent physical and end of life care are welcomed at both Rachel and Robin House, where staff continue to work tirelessly to provide palliative assistance to them and their families in a comfortable environment.