Job Profile - Sandra Patterson, Palliative Care CNS


As this is Palliative Care Week 2018 we are featuring the job profile of Sandra Patterson, Palliative Care Clinical Nurse Specialist to give you an insight into what working in Palliative Care is like.


Q1:  Tell us about yourself and your work.

I have worked for the NHS in the Ulster Hospital for 30 years.  I initially worked for 13 years as a Nursing Auxiliary but I always felt I had more to offer to nursing and I knew I wanted to further my nursing career.  Working as a Nursing Auxiliary gave me the impetus to apply to do my Nursing training.  I completed a 3 year nursing degree at Queens University Belfast obtaining a first class honours degree in Nursing Sciences.  Following this I worked in the Medical, Respiratory and Renal Specialities where I gained excellent knowledge and skills.  During my time in Respiratory Nursing I was given the opportunity of secondment with the Lung Cancer Nursing Team for 18 months working alongside the Palliative Care Team.

Q2:  Why did you choose this job?

During the secondment I was shown that Palliative Care is a Multidisciplinary approach to medical and nursing care for the person with a life-limiting illness, with the goal to improve quality of life for both the person involved and their family. Palliative Care focuses on providing relief from the symptoms, pain, physical stress and mental stress of a terminal diagnosis.

Palliative Care assists patients through the dying process, showing them how to continue living a good quality of life.

Palliative Care is something that I feel very passionate about and I am honoured to be part of the Team, to provide comfort, reassurance and stability to the patient and their family.

Q3:  How does your work help in the overall delivery of Health & Social Care Services?

As a Palliative Care Nurse I have a unique role in the care and management of patients with advanced incurable illnesses such as Cancer, Dementia, COPD and Motor Neurone Disease.  Palliative Care is provided through a holistic approach to manage symptoms including psychological, social, physical and spiritual support for the patient and their families.  Palliative Care is provided to treat the person as whole and not just treat their illness or symptoms.  Providing excellent Palliative Care ensures the person lives as well as possible until the end of life, allowing them to die with dignity in their preferred place of care (Home, Hospital or Hospice).

Q4:  What does a typical day involve?

Assessment and review of palliative patients with complex palliative needs.

Ensure the patient has the correct balance of medication – safely to manage their symptoms and ensure they have a quality of life that can enable them to live as well as possible until the end of life.

Provide knowledge and support for patients and their families as they can become overwhelmed by the care and information they receive.

Providing expert advice and teaching, sharing knowledge gained with other colleagues.

Sign posting and providing follow-up care with other specialist organisations i.e. Community Palliative Care, MacMillan CAB, Marie Curie Hospice and Marie Curie Day Therapy.

Ensuring a seamless transition of care from hospital to home/hospice.

Q5:  What is your ideal day off?

Catching up with family and friends with lunch dates and coffee mornings.

Spending precious time with my granddaughter; mainly involving school runs, dance festivals and cheerleading competitions.

Q6:  What are the best and most challenging aspects of the job?

Within the Palliative Care Team we are provided with excellent support to reflect on our own feelings and concerns about the management of our patients throughout their journey from a cancer diagnosis or end-stage progressive disease through to end of life care.

I am given every opportunity and encouraged to develop my knowledge and skills through professional education to ensure at all times I am providing evidence-based practice, to enable me to provide a gold-standard of palliative care to all our patients with a variety of complex palliative needs, with recent training completed in The European Certificate of Palliative Care, IPOS and Health Assessment.

Q7:  This year the NHS is 70 – what would you like to see change in Health & Social Care in the years ahead?

As a Palliative Care Clinical Nurse Specialist we have the most contact with the patients with palliative complex needs.  Going back to basics during our student nurse training we are trained to always be observant of our patients and their families.  This means as nurses we are ideally placed to act as agents of change.  All around us there are opportunities to see things in new ways and make our patients and their families feel safe and provided with a high standard of nursing care.  To ensure change in Health & Social Care in the years ahead all we need as health professionals is an open-mind, motivation and determination.

Within the Palliative Care Team I wouldn’t change anything.  I feel extremely lucky to work in such a supportive and friendly environment.  When I entered my nurse training as a mature student I would never have believed where I am today, working alongside highly motivated and skilled professionals.  I feel very privileged to be part of an amazing and dedicated team.