Karen Mowat from Ashford has enjoyed a 21-year nursing career at Pilgrims Hospices.
She will leave her role as Senior Ward Sister at the Ashford hospice in April 2022.
Upon joining the charity in 2001, Karen worked as a palliative specialist nurse on the ward and also did some night shifts, supporting patients directly and answering the phones, before progressing to a leadership role.
She reflects fondly on her time at Pilgrims and shares what she has loved most about working for the local hospice charity.
Karen said: “I originally wanted to be a secondary school teacher, but when I was 17, my nan (who I was living with at the time) developed Motor Neurone Disease, so I unexpectedly became her carer whilst I was still at college.
“When she died, I had a rethink about what I wanted to do; I got a job in a nursing home and found that I really enjoyed caring for vulnerable people and feeling like I could make a difference to help improve their quality of life, so I applied to do my nurse training.”
For me, nursing has always been about showing compassion and empathy, and treating patients and families how I would want to be treated.
Karen qualified as a nurse in 1995; she worked in trauma and orthopaedics at Guy’s Hospital, London for several years, and then as a community nurse in Battersea where she developed an interest in palliative care.
She continued: “For me, nursing has always been about showing compassion and empathy, and treating patients and families how I would want to be treated. In the community, I looked after people with terminal illnesses in their own homes. We worked in collaboration with the local hospice, and I started to think that hospice nursing was what I wanted to do.”
When Karen and her husband, Ryan, moved to Ashford in February 2001, she heard that the Ashford hospice had recently opened and enquired about nursing vacancies. Shortly after, she was offered a post.
Karen said: “I am very privileged to be part of an amazing team of nurses on the in-patient unit, each of whom is committed to providing the best care possible for our patients. The team work really well together and are all so supportive of each other.
“We’re able to spend time with patients and their families to understand what is important to them, and we can then individualise the care we give, which makes our jobs so varied. I love the fact that each day is different – I never know what’s going to happen on a shift. Although obviously some days are very sad, there are also many days that are full of laughter – in fact, that’s one of things a lot of patients first notice when they arrive on the ward.”
Karen and her colleagues have faced challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic, but some positives have come out of it, too.
She continued: “The worst thing, by far, was having to restrict visitors; to not be able to allow patients and families to be together at such an important time has been heartbreaking, and goes against everything we believe in as a hospice team.
“However, we’ve become closer and gained a deeper respect for each other because of the challenges we’ve faced. I know I speak for the whole nursing team at Ashford when I say we’re looking forward to opening up even more; being able to provide patients and families with that ‘something extra’ is what makes Pilgrims so special and different from other places.”
Although obviously some days are very sad, there are also many days that are full of laughter – in fact, that’s one of things a lot of patients first notice when they arrive
Karen is leaving Pilgrims to take on an office-based role working from home, which she hopes will help her achieve a better work-life balance. After having a stroke in 2019, she is keen to focus on maintaining good health. She hopes to return to Pilgrims in the future in an educational capacity or possibly doing occasional nursing shifts on the ward.
Kate White, Head of Nursing at Pilgrims Hospices, said: “I’ve had the pleasure of working with Karen for the last four and a half years. She is the pinnacle of professionalism, compassion and patient-centred care. Nothing is too much trouble for her; she always goes above and beyond for her staff, patients and their families. She approaches everything with a can-do attitude and this has certainly rubbed off on her team.
“I know she will be greatly missed at Ashford, but she has come to this difficult decision for the right reasons. I will miss her attention to detail and her sense of humour, and would like to wish her all the very best in her new venture.”
Karen added: “I have truly loved my time at Pilgrims; we empower patients to be involved in decisions about their care to enable them to have the best quality of life they can.
“There are so many different teams within Pilgrims, but everyone ultimately works together to the same end – to ensure the people of east Kent benefit from vital services that are accessible, equitable and of the highest standard.”
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: