My Herts Life: Dr Ros Taylor
PUBLISHED: 10:51 17 June 2014 | UPDATED: 11:07 17 June 2014
Berkhamsted’s Hospice of St Francis director talks to Sandra Smith about a life in medicine, the future of care and getting red-faced over her MBE
Why did you choose a career in medicine? I was a reluctant scientist to begin with, but my parents and school decided I should be a doctor. My favourite subjects were Latin and Greek, a classical background which has served me quite well – I can understand long, medical words.
What were your first impressions of St Francis Hospice? That it was ripe for development and I’d found my niche. Palliative medicine wasn’t a recognised speciality (it was recognised as such in 1997), so I didn’t need a specific training course. Eventually I became medical director. It’s comfortable to grow with an organisation. Caring for the dying is massively different now. We’ve become a louder voice in the local economy, an integral part of care instead of an optional extra.
Do you have a typical working day? My work starts when I wake up. I read while having breakfast, usually emails and documents about palliative care. I often arrive late at the hospice then catch up with my secretary and check the diary. My day will be a mixture of taking phone calls from patients, talking to doctors and nurses about current challenges or sitting in a finance meeting arguing to spend more than the treasurer wants. I might also discuss future developments, staffing issues and how to collaborate with neighbouring hospices, or visit one of our newly-refurbished shops to congratulate the managers. I teach other nurses and doctors, too, and find compelling new ways to share information. My teaching includes management and strategy in the voluntary sector.
What does palliative care mean to you? What underpins all my interest in palliative care is a relationship with the patient. Palliative care is more about relationships than what you do or don’t do. It’s getting to know people and time well spent achieving healing. Doctors and nurses should see themselves as healers because patients are looking for healing if not curing. Palliative care focuses on this holistic approach of medicine and I’m keen to get it back into mainstream medicine.
What is the most rewarding aspect of your work? Seeing the difference we make when patients and families feel abandoned and don’t know how to make the best use of the time they have left. At St Francis, we restore hope and achieve goals, even something like having a comfortable day. We receive exceptional support from the community, so the style of care we give is important to people and they want to see it continue.
Who most inspires you? Patients and their loved ones. I meet extraordinary people and it is a privilege to be drawn into intimate family scenarios.
How do you feel about being awarded an MBE? Initially I was surprised and slightly embarrassed. I felt there were so many colleagues I have worked with over the past 17 years who deserved an award, why should it be me? But now I feel I need to be brave in using it to raise awareness, not just of St Francis, but the hospice movement generally.