We are taking an opportunity to commemorate the legacy of Ruth Brown, Hospice at Home senior manager, as she gets set to retire at the end of the month.
Here, in her own words, Ruth explains more about her esteemed career: ‘It all started when two aunts died leaving behind young children, and my father was killed in an accident at work before I was 12 years old, my wonderful mother became both parents. I had to dig deep, growing up very quickly and helping to support my brother, who was five years my junior. I left school without qualifications despite a grammar school scholarship; turning my back on education as it had mattered so much to both my parents.
‘On leaving school, I went on to have a number of jobs, always drawn to a caring role. I was married at 17 and as well as continued work in social care, my husband and I fostered 27 children. I worked at the Devonshire Hospital in Buxton as a nursing auxiliary, and a physio assistant during the late 70s. During this period, I studied at the local college in the evenings achieving a number of GCSEs and an A Level. A move to our farm in 1981 presented us with a brand-new way of life including the arrival of our son. This was followed two years later by the arrival of our daughter. Milking, calving, lambing and continued work with local social care alongside raising our family, kept me busy.
‘When the children were both at school, I became a nursing auxiliary and bath nurse at Baslow Surgery and I was there for 14 years. My role developed to include care of patients with dementia, and I organised bi-annual tea dances in the hope of stimulating memories through music. These were extremely successful and were on calendars well in advance. I began an art group for disabled called Artability, which again achieved great success, indeed I have pictures that hang in my home that were painted for me by my wonderful artists.
‘In 2000, I was encouraged to apply for nurse training by the GPs I worked with at Baslow Surgery. All those qualifications supported this opportunity and at 47 I went to Sheffield University. I graduated in 2004 as an adult nurse just as I celebrated my 50th Birthday. I was drawn to work at Weston Park Hospital due to my interest in palliative and end of life care, and was successful in achieving a rotational post.
‘I was there for a couple of years but missed the community aspect to my role, and applied to do a district nursing degree. I achieved my BA hons in specialist community nursing in 2007 from Sheffield Hallam University, having worked out in New Zealand on a community placement. I returned to Baslow Surgery as district nurse and in the latter years became community matron.
‘We can achieve academically at any age and I am proof that it is never too late. I have always had a clear plan of what I want to achieve next and wanted to end my career in management, with a focus on good end of life care. Sadly, death has never been far away and more of my close family died far too soon, including my lovely mum in 2001 and my husband in 2010. This consolidated my view of what constitutes a good death and made me focus on its importance for both patients and their loved ones.
‘The opportunity to join Blythe House Hospicecare as Hospice at Home manager and to help develop a service for patients in the last year of life was my dream and I believe was always meant to be. It bought together all my experience and skills, and gave me the opportunity to develop a fantastic team all passionate about good end of life care. I am eternally grateful to Janet (CEO) and the board of trustees for the opportunity, resulting in the development of a first-class service so desperately needed. The service has grown and evolved and is now seen as an essential provider of highest quality end of life care by the CCG and fellow providers and community professionals. Most of all, to the many patients and families who have received our valuable care.
‘I thank all who were pivotal to our success; Sam and Kathy who were alongside me from the beginning, the team of healthcare assistants who are pivotal in delivering this high-quality service and have grown to a 40-strong team; Jude who is now manager, and to Jill who is stepping into my role.
‘I look forward to supporting Blythe House Hospicecare and Helen’s Trust in my retirement and volunteering my services and expertise in any way seen as beneficial.’