From a very young age I realised that I wanted to be a nurse and particularly a children’s nurse. In the west of Ireland, where I grew up, nursing was a proud cultural tradition for families and my three older sisters were all nurses.

My first experience as a teenager was looking after a disabled child during the school holidays. I didn’t realise this at the time but I was providing respite - the core function of hospice care - to the mum and allowing her to have short breaks.

The experience left an indelible mark and undoubtedly explains why I have been drawn to the paediatric side of nursing and my eventual journey to Haven House.

Before arriving at Haven House, I worked at Great Ormond Street Hospital for 12 years, specialising in the care of children with cancer. The biggest thing I learned about cancer is that it is indiscriminate. It can affect children from all backgrounds regardless of their diet and their levels of physical activity.

Children’s hospices historically have not had many referrals from children with oncology needs; here at Haven House we are seeking to change this. We have recently launched a new support group for young people with cancer following the success of our Oncology Open Day in September 2016.

Children and young people with cancer can sometimes feel isolated and during the treatment phase can be absent from school for long periods of time. We know there are many children in our local area that could benefit from our services, but may not be aware of the variety of support we can offer.

Seeing the difference that support can make to families is one of the satisfying things about working at Haven House. I have huge admiration for our families, many of whom still find time to do incredible fundraising for us whilst also caring for a child with complex health needs.

I believe working in a children’s hospice makes you take stock of the important things in life. I have found that it makes you want to live more, that it makes you love more, and appreciate simple things such as nature. Our hospice is set in magnificent grounds and is a happy place filled with laughter and fun; but, of course there are some sad days when children we have cared for die.  

During these difficult times being able to walk out in our beautiful grounds helps give resilience to our staff so they are ready to support the next family who needs our services.

Find out more about our services at The White House.