Clare Stewart from Chartham joined Pilgrims Hospices as a staff nurse at the Ashford hospice when it opened in 2001. For 21 years, she has cared for patients and families at the most difficult time of their lives.
Now preparing to retire from her role, Clare reflects on her nursing career and palliative care journey.
As a teenager considering her career prospects, Clare wanted to be a physiotherapist, but ultimately she decided that nursing was the role for her.
She said: “I had a friend who was a nurse, and I was inspired by the stories she told me. I’m so glad I chose this path; now, I can’t imagine being anything other than a nurse.”
Clare completed her training at the South East Kent School of Nursing in January 1984, qualifying in 1987. Her first post was on a busy orthopaedic ward, but she developed an interest in surgery and gained a placement on the general surgical ward at William Harvey Hospital in Ashford.
It has been a privilege to care for patients and their families at such a difficult time in their lives. Being part of a multidisciplinary team is very rewarding; the high standard of nursing care we’re able to deliver has been so satisfying for me. I’ve really enjoyed making a positive difference to people in their time of need.
She continued: “As my surgical nursing experience widened, I became interested in palliative care. Being able to care holistically for patients and families really appealed to me. When the Ashford hospice opened, I joined as a staff nurse working night duty shifts. I also briefly worked as a community palliative nurse, which was valuable experience, but it made me realise that my passion was working on the in-patient unit.”
Reflecting on her time at Pilgrims, Clare shared what she has loved about being a Pilgrims nurse:
“Pilgrims has been like a family to me over the years; as a team, we’ve shared laughter, tears and all the emotions in between.
“It has been a privilege to care for patients and their families at such a difficult time in their lives. Being part of a multidisciplinary team is very rewarding; the high standard of nursing care we’re able to deliver has been so satisfying for me. I’ve really enjoyed making a positive difference to people in their time of need.
“The Pilgrims ethos is special, that’s why I’ve loved my time here and found it so fulfilling.”
Clare encapsulates everything that Pilgrims stands for; she is kind and caring, and always goes the extra mile to ensure our patients and their families get the best experience possible.
Karen Mowat, Senior Ward Sister at the Ashford hospice
Like so many healthcare workers, Clare has faced challenges working through a pandemic.
She said: “It’s been stressful. Initially, I felt scared about caring for COVID-positive patients. PPE has also been a barrier to communication, especially with patients who are hard of hearing.
“I remember the days where we were unable to have visitors at the hospice; for patients to die without their loved ones at their side was so upsetting. It was such a big contrast to our usual open-door attitude and that was hard to accept.”
But over the years within nursing generally, Clare has experienced first-hand how things have changed for the better.
She continued: “Patients are now treated as individuals; their needs, preferences and wishes are taken into account. Technology has also enhanced the care we’re able to deliver, making processes faster and more efficient.”
Karen Mowat, Senior Ward Sister at the Ashford hospice, said: “I have had the pleasure of working with Clare over the past 21 years. To me, Clare encapsulates everything that Pilgrims stands for; she is kind and caring, and always goes the extra mile to ensure our patients and their families get the best experience possible. She nurses with empathy and compassion, which means that patients and their loved ones receive the support and care they need.
“As well as being an incredible nurse, Clare has kept both staff and patients entertained over the years with her wicked sense of humour and ability to make people laugh, even at 3am! Clare is an integral part of the Ashford team and will be sorely missed by us all. I wish her every happiness in her retirement and hope she enjoys some well-deserved rest!”
Upon retiring, Clare plans to spend valuable time with loved ones and enjoy walks with the family dog, Olive. She is also a keen crafter and baker and has lots of creative projects on the horizon:
“We recently converted our daughter Alice’s old bedroom into a craft room, so I’m excited to get on with making cards, crocheting and trying out painting.
“I also have several cakes to make for birthdays and weddings. Our son, Matthew, is getting married soon and I’m making the cake! I’m also looking forward to doing a cake decorating course in the near future.”
We’re looking for people to join us in providing outstanding quality care and support to those who need it most.
If you’re interested in a nursing or care career at Pilgrims, we’d love to hear from you.
Check out our current vacancies for more information and apply today: