North Devon Hospice is all about helping people live their best life, even if they have a terminal diagnosis, and the majority of care actually takes place in the comfort of people’s own homes.

This includes visits from the hospice’s clinical nurse specialist (or CNS) team. To find out more about this largely unseen role, we followed a typical day in the life of hospice CNS Lisa Davies…

Community CNS’s like Lisa are almost always the first person from North Devon Hospice that patients will see.

They get involved with people who have an illness which means they are likely to be in their last year of their life, although everyone’s prognosis is of course unique.

Lisa and her team have an expertise in controlling symptoms from such illnesses, which means their support helps people to live well despite their diagnosis.

She said: “My first visit is to Sandra, to see how she is after radiotherapy. She’s on high dose steroids too so I want to see how things are going with her pain control.”

Each hospice nurse is twinned with a local GP surgery throughout North Devon. It means they catch up frequently and work with that practice’s doctors and nurses to ensure patients are getting exactly what they need.

One of Lisa’s afternoon visits is to a lady who is new to the hospice and being visited for the first time.

She said: “It’s a privilege to be invited into patient’s homes, and it’s the only way to get a real sense of what they’re dealing with and how they’re coping. We never really know what to expect, and this visit is particularly challenging as the family are facing a huge number of medical, emotional and practical battles.

“I make sure the patient’s medication is suitable, to keep her comfortable at home, but I also refer the family on to a service who can help them claim the appropriate benefits as they’re having financial struggles. That’s a much-overlooked part of being diagnosed with an illness like cancer.”

Difficult visits like this prompt the question as to how Lisa deals with the rigours of the job, caring for people who are going through unimaginably tough times.

“Absolutely it affects me,” she says, “you can’t totally put it out of you mind, but I’ve got a really supportive team that I work with, and we’re always talking things through. I also have a family at home that keep me really grounded.”

Find out more about the work of the hospice at https://www.northdevonhospice.org.uk .