Kent Charity Profile: ellenor (Education)

ellenor is a charity funded by the generosity of the local community. It offers the best care and support to families facing terminal illness in Kent and is the only charity in Kent that provides hospice care for people of all ages – babies, children, adults, and their families.

Hospice care is a philosophy, not a building; its holistic care supports the whole family. It isn’t just for older people with cancer; ellenor cares for all ages, people with COPD, organ failure, Alzheimer’s/dementia and neurological disorders. Their children’s service also cares for those with complex life-limiting disabilities. 

And now, ellenor is offering something new and innovative in terms of education. This month, insideKENT’s Lisamarie Lamb spoke to Sue Marshall of ellenor about what it is they are doing.

How did the new education programme at ellenor come about?

You may remember a little while ago there was a big news story about the failings of a hospital in mid-Staffordshire. Because of the problems experienced there, the Francis Report was issued, and within that report it laid out where things had gone so badly wrong. The outcome of the Francis Report was another report, the Cavendish Report, which set out 15 different standards of care that every care home, nursing home and hospice needed to work to. We wanted to ensure that those looking to work in the care sector understood those standards, and so our work experience arm was created to teach them.

How is your work experience programme different? 

Most work experience programmes last for a week or so, and consist of the people on the programme making lots of tea and maybe making beds. At ellenor that’s not the case. Our programme is a six-month course, and those enrolled on it receive a Care Certificate at the end, showing that they have passed and understood what it means to be a carer.

They have to work for us for four hours a week for those six months. It all starts with an induction day which goes into the health and safety aspects of it all – exactly as a nurse or doctor starting their training would have. Then the students come onto the ward and immediately interact with patients and their families.

That means they have to deal with death – we are a hospice helping those at the end of their lives, after all. So it’s important to support them and watch them to make sure they’re okay. But we have to remember that these people, these 17 year olds for the most part, have chosen to be here, and this is what they are interested in. They don’t shy away from the hard parts of the job, and the patients and their families really respond well to that.

We never push them to do more than they are comfortable with, however – the work placements students always go at their own speed.

What exactly do the students do? 

It’s amazing, really. They just soak up all the information they’re given like a sponge. They do ward rounds with the doctors, they learn about all the different types of medication, they carry out patient assessments and reviews, they even prepare a body for the funeral home. We’ve had universities contact us, surprised that the students who have a Care Certificate from us have done all of this, and we’re proud to be able to confirm that it’s all correct, they have been working hard from day one.

Every six weeks we have a meeting and go through the evidence folders that the students create as they work with us. It’s to make sure that everyone is happy and learning, and to reiterate certain points. On our last meeting I always talk about compassion – I don’t want them to ever lose compassion, no matter what field they end up going into.

Who is this for? 

When we started the work placement was mainly for those nearing the end of school who were interested in going into a care profession, and that’s still true. It certainly gives them a head start over many others. But we also now have an adult version for those who perhaps have always wanted to do nursing or similar but never had the chance. Lots of retired people choose to join us for this as well. It’s the way forward; we need as many heads and hearts as possible.

How do people get enrolled?

First they need to email and we will send them an application form. We then liaise with the school and hold interviews. We aren’t looking for the ones with the best exam results necessarily – we want those who want to do good; we’re very inclusive.

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