“Being part of a team that delivers holistic care to patients and their families during difficult times in their lives is a very special to me,” said Gemma Ryder, who works as a consultant in palliative medicine for St Elizabeth Hospice in Great Yarmouth and Waveney.
“Contrary to what people often think, working at the hospice is warm and friendly. You feel part of a family and the hospice itself is a cheery place with a lot of laughter.
“Yes it can be sad at times but the care and support provided by all the staff is amazing and we all feel privileged to support the patients and families under our care.”
Gemma is a part of the St Elizabeth Hospice team, who every year provide free specialist palliative care to more than 3,000 people living with a progressive or life-limiting illness, and their families, throughout East Suffolk, Great Yarmouth and Waveney.
Supporting communities throughout Great Yarmouth and Waveney, Gemma and her team work in partnership East Coast Community Healthcare (ECCH) to provide vital care to patients and families in the local communities.
The joint initiative was established in April 2019 and as part of the collaboration, St Elizabeth Hospice provides specialist consultant support to six palliative care beds in Beccles Hospital, which is run by ECCH. The service also offers community care unit facilities, clinical nurse specialists to visit patients in their own homes as well as emotional wellbeing and bereavement support.
Gemma added: “I joined St Elizabeth Hospice in January 2021 and mainly work at Beccles Hospital, providing care to the six specialist palliative in-patient beds the hospice and ECCH support at the hospital.
“While I also work with the team in the community, visiting and caring for patients in their homes throughout Great Yarmouth and Waveney. There is a lot of diversity to my role and it is rewarding to help make a difference to the lives of people in the local area.”
Originally from Belfast, Gemma recently moved to Suffolk to join the hospice after previously gaining more than 20 years of experience practicing medicine, while working for a number of hospices and hospitals in London and Essex.
“Doctors can find death and dying a real challenge as we are trained to save lives and when we can’t do this we may find ourselves at a loss,” explained Gemma.
“However, through my experiences of end-of-life care, and since joining the hospice, I understand people living with a life-limiting illness deserve the utmost care, delivered with compassion and understanding and that is something which motivates me each day.
“The great Cicely Saunders (founder of the modern palliative care movement) said ‘You matter because you are you, and you matter until the end of your life.’ She also talked about living well until you die.
“These ideas really resonate with me and have spurred me on to work with people who have a life-limiting disease and each day I see the hospice team work together to restore meaning and quality-of-life to so many people.
“It is such a privilege to support people and their families, during their last days and to help them die with dignity, surrounded by care and love. It is a reminder to live in the moment as no one is guaranteed a tomorrow.”
Outside of work Gemma enjoys spending time with her husband, her two young children and her two cats, as well as exploring the Suffolk countryside and spending time in her garden, where she enjoys seeing the many birds and wildlife that visit her new Suffolk home.
While she also has a personal connection to end-of-life care, following the death of her mother in a hospice in the summer of 2020.
Gemma said: “Through my mum’s death and time under hospice care, I feel like I’ve experienced both sides of hospice services now. It has given me more insight into what it is like to be in the hospice with a loved one.
“Sad though it was, I think this experience has made me a better hospice clinician and has further highlighted to me the importance of end-of-life care and made me determined that St Elizabeth Hospice and ECCH can continue expanding our services to care for more patients and their families in Great Yarmouth and Waveney.”