Kim Smith leads Merton’s specialist end of life care nursing team provided by Central London Community Healthcare (CLCH). Kim talks about her “fantastic” role, what motivates her and how talking can liberate people to live life to the end.
Patients speak very highly of the service you provide, what is the secret of your success?
I have an exceptionally dedicated and compassionate team with lots of clinical expertise and excellent communication skills. We support each other and make it our job to build good relationships. As key workers, we can be contacted directly by our patients or their families, providing reassurance and often resolving queries straight away.
What inspired you to decide on a career in end of life care nursing?
My father died suddenly at 63. At 43 he had had a massive heart attack (I was just 16) and spent the next 20 years working hard and trying to live his life to the full. He developed more illnesses such as diabetes and complained of symptoms such as a constant cough and headaches – now known to be side effects of his medications. Some may have seen him as complaining, I thought he was a hero, but none of us had a clue about how poorly he really was! I was interviewed at the Florence Nightingale School of nursing two days after he died, and here I am now in this fantastic role.
What do you like best about the job?
I really enjoy meeting people and love working with my team. I want to help others to understand the importance of recognising progressive disease trajectories – when treatment is no longer working and when to consider end of life care and sensitive conversations about the future. I feel strongly about making end of life care accessible to all.
It must be a difficult job at times, how do you keep going?
It will always be sad. But if you are able to prepare people; to let them know they are not alone and take time to really listen to them and talk about taboo subject, such as the dying process, it is very rewarding.
How does talking help so much?
Talking in this way can liberate people from unspoken fears and anxieties and enable informed choices to be made and life to be lived until the end. As one of my bereaved daughters said about her mother’s death, “It was sad, but it was beautiful. Mum knew she was dying and was able to say her goodbyes to all of the family who visited her around her bed two days before she died”.
Read more about Merton’s specialist end of life care nursing team.