By specialising in palliative care, I believed I could make a difference

Clinical lead and hospice services manager Marie Morrissey on the ability to multitask when caring for people with terminal illnesses.

Clinical lead and hospice services manager Marie Morrissey on the ability to multitask when caring for people with terminal illnesses

Marie Morrissey

What is your job?

I am the day hospice/outpatient services manager and clinical lead for EMIS [electronic record-sharing system] at Marie Curie Hospice, Belfast. At Marie Curie, we provide care and support to people living with any terminal illness and to their families.

My role is to promote excellent delivery of specialist palliative care to patients who attend our service. I manage the multidisciplinary service, which involves allied health professionals, doctors, nurses and complementary therapists. My role as EMIS clinical lead is to develop and promote excellence in electronic care recording.

Why did you become a nurse?

I have a caring nature and believed I could make a difference. I enjoy the variety of challenges that my role presents – there is never a day when I don’t learn something different.

Why did you choose to specialise?

Specialist palliative care allows time with patients to address concerns, fears and hopes for the future. It is a privilege to be invited into what is probably the most difficult time of life for a patient and their family. To be able to offer support, advice and care is extremely important. By specialising, I believed I could make a difference.

Where did you train?

As a paediatric nurse at Our Lady’s Children’s Hospital in Dublin. This was excellent training and gave me a firm foundation in multidisciplinary team working. My general nursing training was at St Michael's Hospital in Dun Laoghaire by the sea in County Dublin. I then did my specialist practice training with Queen’s University Belfast.

What do you enjoy most about your role?

The variety and working alongside a skilled team of people who have the best interests of the families at heart. I enjoy the complexity of each day and I love the interactions and stories that are shared when working with patients. I obtain job satisfaction from the challenges associated with managing a service that is evolving and changing.

What are the challenges for palliative nursing practice in the 21st century?

With treatments becoming increasingly complex and lasting longer, the result is more complicated symptom management. The challenge for nurses is to meet the individual needs of those living with a terminal diagnosis.

One of our objectives at Marie Curie is to reach more people who are living with a terminal illness and their families. This will always remain my personal challenge.

What qualities do you think a cancer nurse should possess?

Although I’m not strictly a cancer nurse, as I care for people living with all terminal illnesses, I believe the ethos is the same.

You need to possess empathy, good communication skills, be a good listener, be able to multitask and, of course, have a good sense of humour to get you through difficult times.

What inspires you?

My colleagues and their sheer commitment to ensure everything possible is done for the people who are in our care.

Outside work what do you enjoy doing?

Swimming, spending time with family, and a sneaky gin and ginger ale with some honeycomb.

What nursing achievement are you most proud of?

My specialist practice degree. Most recently, I am proud of my work on the EMIS project in the hospice and the way I have worked with the teams in all departments to help facilitate a seamless transition to electronic patient records. It was a challenge for someone who was an IT novice.

What advice would you give a newly qualified nurse in your field?

To remember that behind every patient lies a story and that you only know a little about it. Treat everyone as you would like to be treated.



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