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How Gina is Finding Fun, Flexibility, and Friendship in the Evolving Role of the Healthcare Assistant

Born and bred in Gravesend, some of Gina’s earliest memories are of ellenor. She remembers driving past the hospice with family as a girl, and seeing a man dressed as a lion (ellenor was known, back then, as ellenor Lions) collecting for the hospice charity.

It wasn’t until much later, though – when Gina’s granddad passed away under ellenor’s care – that she understood the true nature and value of ellenor’s services.

It was then, speaking to one of ellenor’s nurses, that something happened. That a career-long passion of Gina’s – who, by then, had already been a Healthcare Assistant for 10 years; first in a nursing home, later in a hospital – was ignited.

A passion for end-of-life care.

“I’ve always loved end-of-life care,” Gina explains. “I’ve been passionate about it ever since I started as a Healthcare Assistant. Working in a care home, you’re around a lot of end-of-life patients; and I could see how important it was to make sure they were comfortable, and that the families were well supported.

“But I’d never really experienced the process of end-of-life care up close. I felt it was a bit of a calling for me.”

Shortly after that conversation with ellenor’s nurse, Gina was one herself – albeit on the bank, in a flexible capacity. In April 2023, however, Gina joined ellenor as a full-time Healthcare Assistant – so what does her role entail?

“Our role is to support patients and families from their own homes throughout the Gravesend, Dartford, and Swanley communities. We make sure their symptoms and pain are managed, and that the patients have all the equipment in place for this. We’re also often able to get out there to do a first eyes-on with the patient before the nurses, and can feed insights back to them.”

Gina provides care for patients with life-limiting illnesses. These could include patients with only days or weeks to live, or those facing longer-term, chronic conditions – such as Parkinson’s Disease or Motor Neurone Disease (MND).

As part of ellenor’s Adult Hospice at Home Care Team, Gina – unlike Healthcare Assistants who work on ellenor’s Northfleet-based inpatient unit – provides care directly from the patient’s home. For Gina, whose background is in hospital and residential care home settings, it was a completely new experience.

But already, she can’t imagine doing anything else.

“It’s amazing to be able to go into a patient’s home and see them in a different – in their own – environment. Often, people are happier at home, and it’s nice that we can see them in the place where they’re most comfortable.”

Gina has a current caseload of around 45 patients – all in stable conditions – in the community, who she maintains regular phone contact with. Should any issues crop up, Gina can quickly escalate it to one of the nurses, who’ll follow up.

ellenor’s Healthcare Assistants work closely with its nurses, despite having fewer clinical responsibilities and smaller caseloads. However, this is one of the things Gina loves about the role – because it means more time to spend with patients.

“We don’t have any timeframes on our visits, so if patient wants – or needs – more from us, we have that option to stay and spend time with them. Sometimes, sitting down with a patient and having a cup of coffee with them is the best thing you can do. And it gives us time to listen. Nurses would love to be able to do that, but their demands are greater.

“As Healthcare Assistants, that time we’re free to spend getting to know patients is something we’re extremely lucky to have.”

That said, the role of a Healthcare Assistant still comes with its fair share of responsibilities. And, as Gina explains, these are constantly evolving.

“Before COVID-19, our role was different – it was more of a support role. But since the pandemic, the demand on our services has increased. Now, the role of a Healthcare Assistant is an expanded one: we do fast tracks for patients, and are easing the pressure on the healthcare system by handling patients who can’t get in touch with their GPs.

“We’re also doing more crisis support visits. These are when we visit the families of patients in the community (often patients who’ve been recently discharged from hospital). These families are at crisis point – they don’t know who to call or what’s going on. So, we help them understand the medications they’ve been given and what to do with them, while ensuring they have all the right equipment in place.”

Looking after these families is, for Gina, the best part of the job. Well, one of them – because she couldn’t do it without her team.

“The team here is really lovely – and a bit crazy, sometimes! But we always support each other. At the end of the day, whether it’s been good or bad, there’s always someone here to talk to about it or offload to. We’ve all got different strengths and weaknesses, and all bring something different to the team – which, I think, is why we all work so well together.

“Plus, it’s so nice in the office here because, despite how emotional the job can be, we always keep it light-hearted with one another; none of us takes ourselves too seriously!”

And it’s not only friendship and fun Gina has found in her role – but flexibility, too.

She’s able to juggle a Healthcare Assistant’s demands alongside being a mum to two boys (aged 15 and 12), who – despite not fully understanding what she does, Gina claims – are so proud of her.

“It’s been fantastic for me, working at ellenor. I absolutely love it. If you’re kind and caring, and you enjoy supporting people, there’s no better job you can do.”

Could you see yourself in Gina’s shoes? We’re always looking for people who are as passionate about high-quality care as she is – and, right now, we’re looking for a Children’s Care Assistant to join the team. So why not browse our current vacancies, or read more about what it takes to work for us?

If you’re not looking for a role right now – but you are looking to make a difference – we’d love you to consider making a donation. ellenor needs £7 million every year to be able to continue supporting the thousands of patients and families facing life-limiting illnesses in Kent and Bexley. And, for the vast majority of that, we rely on the generosity of our local community. On people like you.

So thank you, and please – give what you can. It will go such a long way.