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Scholar's Report

Travel: Exploration of Bereavement

2016/07 - Joan Howlett

I was fortunate to gain a Florence Nightingale Trust travel bursary to enable me to explore bereavement care.  I had to be selective in my explorations as I had limited time and finances.  I hoped that my exploration would enable me to bring something back to my organisation which I could share with my colleagues and be of benefit to the staff working in this very difficult area. I hoped that my travel scholarship would to enable me to have a better understanding of bereavement and loss..  Before starting this travel scholarship I was unaware what my travels would uncover. I was aware in my own organisation that some of the staff was going off sick when they have had multiple deaths and wondered if any preventative work would reduce this sickness and enable the staff feel more supported.  The staff all attended regular staff meetings and had group clinical supervision which the staff found of great benefit.  However I felt there was something as an organisation we were missing. I knew I wanted to meet people from different areas and I was interested in discovering what other people had learnt from their travels.  I was unsure what the impact would be for me or the organisation but was very grateful for the opportunity.

I was fortunate to be given 3 weeks study leave to undertake this travel scholarship

I undertook a visit to a previous Florence Nightingale Trust candidate who visited India and I learnt about her experiences their and what she had brought back to her own hospital.

I visited a Buddhist centre in London where I met a lot of people from other countries who shared with me their experiences of bereavement.  I also spoke with the leaders from the centre who shared with me what it was to be Buddhist and how living in London had influenced their practice. Another leader was from India who came regularly to London to give talks and share his beliefs with others.

I visited the national conference for children “Matters of Life and Death”.  This enabled to have a deeper understanding of bereavement from a child’s perspective.  Some of the young people were able to clearly demonstrate what was helpful to them and what areas did not help. I also met a lot of people and had some very interesting discussions.

The biggest impact for me was attending the Grief Recovery Course in Leeds.  This course enabled me to look at bereavement as just one of the many losses we encounter within our life.  It enabled me to understand what unhelpful information we are given as young children and adults which make dealing with grief more difficult.  It also made me realise how I could help staff within my own organisation to enable them to look at their own losses (not just bereavement) whilst working with end of life patients and their families.  

After this course and with the agreement of my organisation I undertook a pilot project with a very small group (2 healthcare assistants and 1 administrator, 1 other candidate did not start the group due to personal circumstances).  From this course the feedback has been amazing and I will be undertaking 2 more pilot groups in April 2016.  I am hoping eventually this 8 week programme can be incorporated in induction for all new staff (clinical and administrative) who have direct contact with patients and families across the Marie Curie organisation. You will be able to see the Monkey Survey which I devised before the start of the course and the end feedback by reading the full report.

My last visit was to the Cruse National Conference in Warwickshire.  I found it informative and met some very interesting people.  I particularly enjoyed hearing about the work of James Turner and therapeutic encounters in mental health nursing. I brought back some books which I have been able to share with the nursing team.

I’m looking forward to the next year and what developments can be learnt from my travel scholarship and I actively encourage other nurses to take up this opportunity which has been given to me.