‘Sharon Finn intuitively can tell what a person needs at a given time. Sometimes they may need music or singing, at other times to be able to talk about death and dying, or just to be quiet. Seeing the impact of her skilled approach can be incredibly moving - an isolated withdrawn patient who you suddenly hear laughing or joining in a song.’

Sharon Finn

Sharon Finn. Picture credit: Nathan Clarke

Mary Flatley, inpatient lead nurse at St Joseph’s Hospice in London is delighted that senior healthcare assistant Sharon has been selected as a finalist in the RCN Healthcare Practitioner Member category of the Nurse Awards 2015. ‘She is a great team player; so supportive of her colleagues and her manager.’

The Nurse Awards attracted more than 700 entries this year. The winners will be announced at The Savoy Hotel on May 1.

Sharon has worked at the Hackney hospice for 10 years, joining the nurse-led respite ward five years ago. She realised she wanted to work there after coming to visit a patient that she had been supporting in her previous job as a neighbourhood warden.

‘I could see he was down on his luck,’ she says, ‘and could tell he was in need of support. So I would point him in the direction of services that could help.’

When she visited him at St Joseph’s, she could tell straightaway it was ‘a place of nurturing’. She explains: ‘He was clean-shaven and his eyes sparkled - he looked really cared for. I had visited him at other places but here he seemed relaxed in mind and body. It was everything that care should be about. I knew I wanted to be someone who made that difference.’

Her team says that she more than exceeds that goal. They praise her teamwork and the positive environment she creates with her outlook and infectious enthusiasm and her extremely high standards of patient care.

For her ‘the little things are the big things’, whether it is making someone a cup of tea, helping with manicures or trimming patients' hair. On her days off, Sharon completed a course of massage workshops, and she now offers massage to patients, and works with the complementary therapies team in the neurological support group.

Her care doesn't just extend to patients but also to her colleagues throughout the hospice. She acts as a mentor to new staff, especially new healthcare assistants, providing support, a listening ear and gives advice when needed. She has built excellent relationships with other hospice teams.

Her team says she picks up on concerns around patients’ physical, emotional and spiritual needs, noticing any tell-tale patterns and feeding back when they are in pain. Her colleagues speak of her warmth and compassion, and her ability to communicate with people from all walks of life with all sorts of needs.

‘If they are withdrawn she'll encourage them to socialise, but at their own pace,’ says her nomination.

Building relationships

‘I want to make every contact count and show people I value them, and I think that shows,’ explains Sharon. She believes the key to building relationships with patients is being consistent in everything you do.

Sharon Finn

Sharon Finn at work. Picture credit: Nathan Clarke

‘The way you are helps them unfold and share their concerns and then you can contact other professionals to help them.

‘If you build a relationship, you can understand their body language and people will tell you their concerns. If a patient needs a cup of tea, that can be the start of building a meaningful relationship with them.

‘But I’m cautious about invading people’s space and I always take the lead from the patient. I am professional while learning what people think is important. It is a journey you take with them.’

Sharon cites the example of a woman she has been caring for. ‘She is very quiet and I have been trying to connect with her. One day some music came on and I could see a reaction in her eyes so I invited her to dance with me. Her face lit up. No matter where people are, they have an ability to feel pleasure. You need to tap in and be sincere but it takes energy and mindfulness.’

While it feels natural to build these relationships, Sharon is aware she has to look after herself. ‘You can get so involved and interested and you need to keep balance with this work and maintain your energy levels.’

She finds the support from the hospice and her colleagues invaluable in achieving that. ‘If you have a concern, you can ask someone and you are always supported by the team. I found palliative care very difficult when I started as I was dealing with death every day. My coping mechanism was to write - just for myself.’

She is delighted to be shortlisted in the Nurse Awards and is looking forward to the ceremony at The Savoy in London on May 1.

‘It’s a great pleasure to be nominated and to be recognised for making a difference - as well as being good for my self esteem. And to be recognised for the work I am doing with the team.’

Her line manager, ward sister Debbie Pegram, says her place in the final is ‘100% earned and deserved and true recognition of the job Sharon does’. She adds: ‘Her warmth, compassion, genuine care and understanding of the individual needs of people as they near the end of the lives is insurmountable. Sharon touches the lives of all she comes into contact with.’

Patients and their families agree. Adrian Simpson says: ‘Both myself and my partner Sue, who has MS, have been privileged to have received care and support from Sharon. She is always positive, compassionate and raises laughter wherever she goes. She has often gone the extra mile such as helping Sue put her make up on or even sharing a song.’

The partner of a patient who has passed away, but is still actively involved in the neurological support group, adds: ‘She is a very caring and outgoing person, both communicative and spiritual, which I feel is important at St Joseph’s.’

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