‘Hospice nursing isn’t a backwards step, it’s the ultimate experience’: Haven House launches new campaign

Aisling Kilbane with Hui yi Ding, her father Nai yi Ding and little brother Tianyao.

Aisling Kilbane with Hui yi Ding, her father Nai yi Ding and little brother Tianyao. - Credit: Archant

There are surely not many careers more rewarding than nursing, the occupation of the compassionate, who devote much of their waking hours to caring for others, making the most monumental difference to so many lives.

Aisling Kilbane with Hui yi Ding, her father Nai yi Ding and little brother Tianyao.

Aisling Kilbane with Hui yi Ding, her father Nai yi Ding and little brother Tianyao. - Credit: Archant

Staff at Haven House Children’s Hospice, The White House, Woodford Green, know just how vital their roles are, caring for hundreds of life-limited youngsters and teenagers every year.

Whether an 18-year-old who has visited since childhood, or a newborn baby on an end of life pathway, children, young people and their families are given support in whichever form they need, whether through sensory play, music therapy, or help to create cherished memories.

Haven House provides a home-from-home environment led by highly-qualified staff, with its nurses delivering essential respite care and symptom management to help parents cope with the constant demands of looking after a child with a life-limited condition.

Many nurses out there may wonder if hospice work is for them, but the charity is on a mission to assure them that is the case, through a new campaign.

Aisling Kilbane with Hui yi Ding, her father Nai yi Ding and little brother Tianyao.

Aisling Kilbane with Hui yi Ding, her father Nai yi Ding and little brother Tianyao. - Credit: Archant


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The Recorder caught up with director of care Eileen White and practice nurse facilitator Aisling Kilbane to find out more.

“It’s a very pure form of nursing,” said Aisling, “Because it’s one-to-one care: you have contact with the families and get to spend time with them, which doesn’t always happen in a hospital environment, where sometimes you really get bogged down with paperwork.

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“I believe one-to-one nursing care benefits the children greatly. At Haven House we have time to take part in creative play, to read a sensory story, to go for a walk in our wonderful grounds and still provide high standards of clinical care in a nurse-led environment where you can develop nurse leadership and management skills.”

Eileen added: “We’re trying to recruit more nurses because it’s a highly specialised sector, it may be that people think they will lose skills but the opposite is true actually. You’re not taking a backwards step, you’re taking a side step. Hospice care offers the ultimate nursing experience.”

Haven House Children's Hospice. Picture: Kim Rix

Haven House Children's Hospice. Picture: Kim Rix - Credit: Photography by Kim Rix

‘Be the nurse you’ve always wanted to be’ aims to showcase the fulfilling nature of hospice work and staff have been busy writing blogs to share their experiences and job satisfaction.

The charity, which takes a holistic approach, is seeking both nurses and healthcare support workers as it works towards its Vision 2020 strategy. By the end of the decade, staff want to be supporting 500 children in north and north-east London, west Essex and east Hertfordshire. This financial year, 337 children have been cared for.

Eileen said: “The mums in particular are almost project managing the professionals involved in their child’s care with all the appointments they need to attend. Many of our children have very complex needs. We provide respite care to enable parents to have a short break away from their caring responsibilities.”

The hospice’s experienced nursing team works closely with Great Ormond Street Hospital and other hospital NHS trusts.

Aisling Kilbane with Hui yi Ding, her father Nai yi Ding and little brother Tianyao.

Aisling Kilbane with Hui yi Ding, her father Nai yi Ding and little brother Tianyao. - Credit: Archant

Its recently-launched Hospice at Home pilot service in Waltham Forest means families have more choice than ever before, and if successful it could extend into neighbouring boroughs.

Both Aisling and Eileen are keen to dispel myths around children’s hospice care.

“It’s breaking down barriers among families and professionals alike,” said Eileen.

“The fear of hospices means too many children and their parents are not receiving the support they need. If we are to reach more children and families, we must break down the stigma of hospice care and highlight all the ways we support children and families.

“Haven House is a place of fun with highly skilled and supportive staff, not a place of doom and gloom. Parents need to know that a significant proportion of the care we provide is respite; it is not predominantly about death and dying. Contrary to what many people may think, the majority of our school-aged children still attend school and still enjoy life.”

Aisling added: “This is a place that gives care and has a sense of community, it’s such a nice environment and a very personal way to nurse: rather than looking after diagnoses, we’re looking after a child and their family. Our child-centred approach offers lots of job satisfaction and is excellent for growing your nursing skills.”

If you are a nurse or healthcare support worker interested in joining the hospice, call clinical nurse manager Debbie Dawes on 0208 506 5524 or visit havenhouse.org.uk/vacancies.

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