I recently tried out a few shifts on reception at a hospice. Although there is significantly less patient contact time, it does feel like quite an important role, as you are the first person that people see when they walk in to the hospice.
You get a real mix of people coming through those doors – the obvious old-timer patients who know the score, the friends and family of patients who feel like the hospice is their second home, volunteers, staff, ambulance drivers… etc
And then there are the newbies. The new patients, only recently referred to ‘palliative care'. Or friends and family of new patients, coming to terms with this new set-up. These people have a look of pure terror when they walk in. They have no idea what to expect from a building housing a lot of dying people. And it’s a great privilege to greet them, take them through to the ward or anniversary centre and reassure them that it won’t be as bad as they think.
It’s amazing to see the change in their faces as they begin to absorb the warm and safe energy that buzzes around the hospice. Every time, it reminds me that I too felt the same when I first walked in to that building, but that I’ve never been more wrong about an idea of something than I was about what its like to be around the dying.
Annie Broadbent, our guest blogger, lost her mother two years ago to breast cancer and began writing about her experience of grief. Her book, We Need To Talk About Grief, a guide for friends of the bereaved, will be published in November by Piatkus, £12.99.