Emma Cunnington, Ward Clerk, Inpatient Unit

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How long have you worked for the Charity?

I actually started in 2009 as a cleaner and then Carly, our Matron, encouraged me to go for the Ward Clerk position, because the lady was retiring. I got the job and I’ve been doing that for nine years now. I love it, absolutely love it.

When I first started, I had no admin experience or anything but that’s how much they believed in me and knew that I could do it. Even Lynn Morgan, who was our previous CEO, gave me techniques ready for my interview. I had the whole Hospice behind me in the very beginning – and I still feel that I have that.

People come to me and always ask me questions and I do know the answers! Apparently, I’m the fountain of knowledge in there. Some days, I wish I wasn’t!

Can you tell us about your connection with the Charity?

So, I have a work connection and a personal connection. My personal connection is that my own family needed to use the Hospice for my younger sister, who sadly passed away in 2015. She was only 23 at the time but the Hospice was amazing. Obviously, I work here so I know what they do but even being their colleague, they treated me like any other patient and family.

What words would you use to describe the Hospice to somebody?

I think we’re a very caring hospice, very supportive, I feel, we are literally like they say, we are Team Arthur and we are altogether if we’re needed. Yes, I think it’s an amazing place.

It’s not an environment I’d ever experienced before and it’s not one I expected when I started working here. Even as staff, you don’t expect to feel like you do, do you, considering what we may see some days.

I think we are getting better at getting it out there that ‘hospice’ isn’t a horrible word. It’s so hard to get that across, though, isn’t it?

I think it’s getting better. I mean, obviously, I’ve worked here a long time, so I’ve seen it change but it’s changed for the good in that respect. More people can come into the Inpatient Unit now and the Hospice at Home Teams and Specialist Care Team can go out to them if they want to be managed at home, so that’s really handy as well.

What would you say to somebody about to face hospice care?

I would probably say have an open mind because it’ll probably surprise them, That’s what you see quite a lot, people come in and say, “Oh, I didn’t realise how nice and calm and relaxing it is here, I didn’t realise that people can go home”.

Can you tell me something that surprises you about hospice care and the Hospice?

I think what surprises me the most about hospice care is what people think of it. When they first hear the word ‘hospice’ or they come in – the main question that I get asked all the time is, ‘Does everybody that comes in die?’ I say, ‘No, that isn’t the case. We have lots of different patients that come in for lots of different things’.

Sometimes we’ll get patients that come in and their relatives will come through the door and, like I say, that word ‘hospice’, we help people understand it a bit more. But a lot of people burst into tears, but that’s actually a relief for them, because they’re so happy that their relative is now in a place where they know that they’re going to get really good care and they know that we will look after them as a family as well.

I can tell what family members might be up for a little laugh, because that’s how they’re coping with it. I also know the ones that might just want a hug and then when they want to be left alone. I think I’m really good at judging how to do that and I don’t think I’ve had any complaints!

Do you have a particular memory or anything that evokes joy when you think about the Hospice?

One of the things that I do quite enjoy doing on the Ward is, and it has happened quite a few times, is when patients want to get married. We contact the Registry Office, and sometimes our Chaplain will do the service. We’ve had, I think since we’ve been in the new building [since November 2016], maybe five weddings. It’s really nice and we put all that effort in just to see that they’ve managed to get that one last moment.

We always cry! But it’s not always sad tears. Somebody was saying earlier today that however much they cry, it’s not always because they’re so sad. I mean even the families, sometimes it’s happy tears, it’s tears of relief.

Sometimes we have some really funny times, especially if Carly’s down on the Ward you can guarantee that you’re going to laugh!

Have you got any other examples of making every moment count?

We’ve had different requests. An ambulance crew once helped us with a patient whose son was getting married. All he ever wanted to do was see his son marry, and when he was brought into the Inpatient Unit, he was telling the ambulance crew this. They came back the next day and picked him up and took him to the Wedding, and waited for him, so he could see his son finally get married. I mean, that was just a beautiful moment. That was another case of happy tears and yes, that’s quite special.

What do you think are some of the greatest challenges that the Charity has had to overcome since you’ve been here?

Raising funds is really difficult at times and especially the last few years going through the pandemic. People just can’t afford to give as much as they used to, so we have to find other ways and I think that’s one of the biggest challenges for the Charity, definitely.

What personal challenges have to done for the Charity?

I walked Hadrian’s wall a couple of years ago and then in 2022 I shaved all my hair off.  I raised near enough two and a half grand for the Hospice. I won’t let my hair grow long again now, because I just love it! I wish I’d done it years ago now! That was one of the best things I’ve done for the Charity- and for myself as well.

I did it in memory of my sister. Her name was Sally Cunnington, she was 23 years old [when she died]. At the time, she was the youngest person, as far as I’m aware, that had died at the Hospice. Unfortunately, that’s changed because we do get quite a few young patients now and that’s always quite difficult for me. I think that’s probably the hardest part of working here – having the young ones because they’ve not really lived. Yeah, she was a good girl. She would’ve been wetting herself seeing me have my hair shaved off!

It was quite emotive though. People know that I’m a bit of a joker and a bit of a character, but I really felt it, I just couldn’t stop myself having to cry at the end because I was just like, “I can’t believe I’ve done it”. Then seeing my mum there and all my friends as well, I actually felt proud of myself.

It was really nice because relatives and family members [of previous patients] were sponsoring me, because that’s how much the Hospice meant to them and clearly, I made an impression on them and that was nice.

How do you look after yourself while working at the Hospice?

I mean, it’s not easy. If I just left, walked out the front door [at the end of the day] and didn’t sometimes take it home with me then I wouldn’t feel like I’m the right person for the job. It’s okay to get emotional about what you do and what we see. Some days if it’s been a difficult day we just need five minutes to have a cry. There’s nothing wrong with it. I think it’s quite healthy to do that, to be fair. But yeah, we all support each other. We hug a lot.

What makes you proud to be part of the Charity?

The people I work with 100%. All the guys on the Inpatient Unit, I mean, that’s like my little family on there. What they all go through every day – every department as well, what we all do. Like fundraising, going out raising money to keep the Hospice open and the Hospice at Home teams and Specialist Care Team that are able to keep people at home for their last moments.

What would you want for the future for the Charity?

Well, it would be nice if someone we knew won really big amounts of money and just gave us a couple of mill! That would be alright!

Just keep doing what we’re doing, getting us out there a bit more into the community. We’re expanding our shops and stuff like that so, I think we’re going in the right direction.

If you would like to work for Arthur Rank Hospice Charity please see our vacancies on our ‘Work for Us’ page . We would love to hear from you.