My job

60 seconds with hospice director Jo Tonkin 

Never be frightened of change – when one door closes another always opens, says St Helena Hospice director of patient and family services Jo Tonkin

Never be frightened of change – when one door closes another always opens, says St Helena Hospice director of patient and family services Jo Tonkin

Jo Tonkin
Jo Tonkin.

After qualifying as a registered nurse in 1987, Jo Tonkin worked on the haematology and bone marrow transplant unit at Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge before moving to London to work at Charing Cross Hospital and The Royal Marsden. She has held Macmillan clinical nurse specialist posts in palliative care and oncology/haematology, and spent ten years as a nurse consultant in haematology at Colchester Hospital in Essex, where she was also head of nursing for medicine and urgent care. She took up her current role as director of patient and family services at St Helena Hospice, Colchester, in October 2017.

What are your main work responsibilities?

Managerial, operational and financial responsibility for patient and family services teams across inpatient, day and community services. Promoting the key values of specialist palliative care and general end of life care for patients, families and carers, and ensuring equitable access to services and striving to address all unmet needs.

Who are your clients/patients?

Patients with a life-limiting illness and their loved ones.

What do you love about your job?

It is a privilege to work with people at a very vulnerable time in their lives, and the team I work with are passionate about everything they do.

What do you find most difficult?

Knowing that many people do not receive the care they need and deserve at the end of their lives.

What is your top priority at work?

Developing services for end of life care that reach out to those with unmet needs, such as minority groups, those living in deprived areas, and people with a non-cancer diagnosis such as dementia or heart failure.

How have you developed your skills in this role?

During a long and varied career, I have been lucky enough to learn from experts and patients with cancer, with support and encouragement from mentors and supervisors.

What has been your most formative career experience?

My role as a nurse consultant – I developed my clinical and communication skills to a level that enabled me to take the subsequent steps in my career.

What will be your next career move?

This new role really is the pinnacle for me. When I reach retirement age, I would like to keep my hand in and return to working directly with patients providing clinical care.

What is the best lesson nursing has taught you?

Life is precious and we only have one chance at it. Grab everything life offers you, and value each and every day.

What career advice would you give your younger self?

Never be frightened of change – when one door closes, another always opens. Follow what you enjoy.


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