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Sue’s Story: An Insider’s Account of Training and Education at ellenor

It perhaps isn’t one of the first things you’d expect a hospice to do nut we also provides a wide range of training courses.

Aimed primarily at carers – with the goal of building their skills, and enabling them to better support GPs and nurses – these courses are free, take place virtually on Teams, and are all available on EventBrite.

Of course, the best courses require the best people running them. Which is where our Assistant Training Facilitator, Sue Marshall, comes in.

Now in her 23rd year at ellenor, Sue worked in our inpatient ward (IPW), before moving through into education and, now, clinical development. She quickly became one of the driving forces behind ellenor’s training programs – which are growing, almost by the week, in popularity. We sat down with Sue to chat, and ask – why is it important for a hospice to offer training?

“We have the ability to share our knowledge and our care,” Sue explains. “But it’s more than that – because we have the responsibility to share it, too. Those of us who’ve been delivering hands-on care – who’ve held people’s hands, and listened to them – we can empower other people and organisations to do the same.”

“Our courses are for everybody. For anybody that works in care, has an interest in care, volunteers in care­ – or who may do in the future. Essentially, anyone who might come in contact with a patient – be they a physiotherapist, counsellor, or anyone with an arm in palliative care – should join our training.

“We have student nurses, young carers, mature people. There’s no age limit. Here at ellenor, we care for people from zero to 100 – and we train anybody who wants training.”

“It’s about giving carers knowledge,” Sue continues. “So that, when the time comes – when a patient is palliative, or approaching the end of their life – the people involved in their care are aware of why things are happening. And what to do.

“The reality is that, in the last few days of a patient’s life, the carer is going to be doing as much to support the patient’s loved ones as they are for the patient. So the more they know – the more prepared they are for what to say, and how to say it – the better the outcomes for everyone involved.”

Our training sessions are instrumental for helping carers develop the skills and techniques they use in their everyday roles. But it’s also more than that – it’s about helping them cultivate the skills they’ll need for tomorrow. For what they might experience not today, but weeks, months or years down the track.

Sue remembers speaking to one carer who was considering ellenor’s courses. Initially sceptical, the carer asked ‘what good are those skills to me?’

“I said ‘right now [those skills] might not be’” Sue recalls, describing the conversation. “’But tomorrow, they might be. You never know when your patient is going to change; be diagnosed with a terminal illness; begin to show symptoms. We’re arming you with all the tools you need to understand what’s happening – and help your patient understand, too.’

“That woman ended up coming on every course.”

Our courses have already empowered hundreds of carers, from all countries and walks of life, to learn vital palliative and end-of-life skills. As well as many local carers, the training has attracted people as near as Birmingham, and as far as Canada and Dubai.

“It’s all about inclusion; making sure everyone has the right understanding of how – and why – things are being done,” Sue says. “Wherever they’re from; wherever they live.”

So why did Sue turn to education and clinical development, after years in our IPU?

“It’s absolutely simple,” she says. “Because I love what we do. Realistically, I know that, as a hospice, we’re privileged to get the time to talk to our patients and our course participants; time to help them understand. We get time to really reassure them that we’re here for them on that journey – and that we really mean it.

“A lot of the other health services are restricted by time constraints and pressures. If we, at ellenor, can eke a tiny bit of what we do here into what [those health services] do there, it’s going to make the difference. To the end of someone’s life, and to what that experience is like for their loved ones.”

And her message to the community – specifically, to employers of anyone providing patient care – is a simple one.

“Get every single one of your employees on these courses. Your housekeeping team, your cooks – anybody that has contact with patients. The more people we have in the world with these skills and knowledge – that feel able to provide higher quality care – the better. It doesn’t cost anything; they don’t have to travel anywhere.”

“Empower your staff. And it’s absolutely essential to give the patient – someone’s family member, after all – the best care possible.

“We can help teach you that”.