Optimism in the face of death

Hollywood Private Hospital palliative care nurse Penny Dring
Hollywood Private Hospital palliative care nurse Penny Dring

The Hollywood Private Hospital palliative nurse started working in hospice as a teenager in the UK and instantly fell in love with it.

‘What I appreciate the most is interacting with patients, talking about their fears and regrets or what they want to do before they pass away,’ Mrs Dring said.

‘The hospital is their last port of call, so I am playing a pretty big role in the final moments and memories of their life.

‘I felt it back then and I certainly feel it now ” it is a privilege to be with someone as they approach death.’

In one 10-hour shift, Mrs Dring said she could be called on to be a comedian, shoulder to cry on, family counsellor and ‘jack-of-all-trades’.

‘It is a very demanding job mentally, physically and especially emotionally,’ she said.

‘Hundreds of patients will always be with me, like the woman who had her whole aquarium sent up to the ward so she could lay there and enjoy the fish or the man who had me placing his bets each morning.

‘One patient, oh I loved this man, he was a Van Morrison fan. Each day I would ask, ‘what one shall we have on today, then?’ and we would just be singing away together. It doesn’t matter where I am or who I’m with, whenever I hear Van Morrison, I think of him.’

Mrs Dring said she had nursed all sorts of characters from Catholic nuns to truck drivers but the one thing they had in common was the need for communication.

‘Some days a family will go home and the patient will be sitting on the bed crying, and I’ll just sit down and have a cry with them,’ she said.

‘Even after all these years, I deal with each shift as it comes. I don’t always get it right, but I know I do a bloody good job.’