Rachel Jennings is Blythe House’s Hospicecare’s lead counsellor, working with adults who are experiencing emotional distress because of their own life-limiting illness, or the illness of someone significant to them, and offering a bereavement counselling service too.
Prior to coming to Blythe House in July 2016, the former nurse was a counsellor at Springhill Hospice in Rochdale, and had roles throughout her career at prestigious teaching hospitals in London including Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust.
Rachel explains more about her career and why she enjoys her role here so much…
‘After I did my A Levels, I went straight into nursing as I always wanted to do something to do with health, and caring for people. I had many different nursing roles, including palliative care specialist, and gained a nurse teaching qualification, so I was able to teach and mentor colleagues.
‘I moved to a hospital in Milton Keynes and was commissioned by Macmillan to set up a palliative care service where, at the time, there wasn’t anything in place. I represented Macmillan in different media interviews including with ITV and the BBC, providing expert opinion and insight into palliative care.
‘I then took a break from nursing to study sociology, and also spent time teaching Maths and English to adult learners. I had an interest in counselling since my role at Guy’s and St Thomas’; I had already done a lot of counselling skills studies in my palliative care role. I also had a great deal of experience in speaking to families and patients to break very sad news, and have difficult conversations.
‘I went to university in 2005 to undertake my counselling studies, but they stretched well over the initial period, and I got a post-graduate certificate working with GP surgeries. I am fully qualified to undertake counselling, psychotherapy and hypnotherapy with both adults and children. I have experience of dealing with issues including life-limiting illness diagnoses, mental health, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and trauma.
‘We are all scared of things, and different things make us sad, so I love working with people; building their resilience and empowering them; helping them to do it themselves. It is very satisfying to see someone that you are working with become self-aware and begin to understand their worth; they start to realise “I can do this myself!”
‘I love the variety of my role here at Blythe House; I enjoy looking at what we’re doing and how it’s going – getting feedback from clients to help improve our practice. I enjoy the management side of my role too; working with colleagues including volunteer counsellors, I am able to support and guide them. The teams across the hospice work collaboratively to benefit patients and their families. In the hospice’s Living Well service, I also help to run our eight-week mindfulness course for patients.
‘Of course, I also love the clinical contact with clients that I maintain; helping people to understand themselves and find ways of coping. We provide a safe place to enable someone to start unpacking worries and issues. Counselling and bereavement support here at the hospice is a collaborative, holistic process that is very much led by the client. We do not tell them what we are going to do; we work with them to help them to make their own decisions and eventually they are the ones doing the work.’