• 10 December 2021
  • 9 min read

Nurse to Director of Care: An Interview With Eileen White

  • Eileen White
    Director of Care, Haven House Children's Hospice
    • Mat Martin
    • Richard Gill
    • Aubrey Hollebon
    • Ben Gordon
    • Cynthia Ogiator
    • Matt Farrah
  • 0
  • 875
Play video: "I think the skills that you learn in nursing are key to any managerial posts that you take up. You need to be empathetic. You need to be patient. You need to be resilient."

Director of Care at Haven House Children’s Hospice, Eileen White, talks to us about staff retention, children’s palliative care and her own nursing career journey.

Topics covered in this article

I Decided To Become A Nurse When I Was Very Young

I Was Always Very Much A Hands-On Nurse

Nursing Skills Are Key Within Management

There's A National Shortage Of Children's Nurses

I Feel As Passionate Today As I Did 30 Years Ago

Staff Retention Is Key

The Team At Haven House Are Exceptional

The Misconceptions Around Palliative Care

Children’s Palliative Care Is A Hugely Rewarding Career

I Would Really Encourage You To Consider A Career In Children's Palliative Care

I Decided To Become A Nurse When I Was Very Young

My name is Eileen White.

I'm the Director of Care at Haven House Children's Hospice in Woodford Green in Essex.

I decided to become a Nurse when I was very young really.

I come from a big extended Irish family, and three of my older sisters were Nurses, and they encouraged me to go into the profession.

I decided to become a Paediatric Nurse because I did a lot of babysitting when I was a teenager, and I looked after a child in my summer holidays at school who had special educational needs.

I really loved being around children and always wanted to be a Paediatric Nurse.

Having older sisters who were Nurses, they persuaded me to go into Adult Nursing.

I Was Always Very Much A Hands-On Nurse

As an Adult Nurse, I had a very short placement on an Adult Palliative Care unit, and I was really impressed with the care that was taken of adults at end of life and the holistic care that was provided for those families and those adults that were at end of life.

As soon as a job came up on the children's ward, I moved there and then I went into a tertiary centre.

So I worked with children with cancer for quite a number of years in a tertiary centre, specialising in paediatric oncology.

I had experience of the team working really well when a child was on an end-of-life pathway and really found the work very rewarding.

I was always very much a hands-on Nurse, and my expectation was that I would become a Clinical Nurse Specialist or maybe go into a career in education.

Nursing Skills Are Key Within Management

I did a leadership module, and I worked alongside some really fantastic role models, especially when I worked in the tertiary centre and learned a lot from leaders within the NHS who taught me a lot about managing people and managing.

And I started an unexpected role as an interim and soon discovered that I really enjoyed management actually and undertook some leadership courses and really enjoyed the leadership element.

I think the skills that you learn in nursing are key to any managerial posts that you take up.

You need to be empathetic.

You need to be patient.

You need to be resilient.

I'd like to think that the team I support and the team that I work with are very resilient, and particularly over the last couple of years, we've needed to be a very resilient team.

And consequently, if your team is resilient, you are able to provide high-quality care.

There's A National Shortage Of Children's Nurses

The things I worry about related to my role as Director of Care really involve recruitment of staff.

There's a national shortage of Children's Nurses in particular, and it's really challenging in the current environment to recruit high-quality staff.

And I think we need to do a lot of work to build our teams across the Hospice sector in this country.

I read some statistics today that the number of Nurses leaving the NMC register is four times higher this year than it's ever been.

So there are definitely challenges out there, but it's been lovely to see more Student Nurses apply for Student Nurse placements at uni.

And hopefully in a few years time, we'll be able to catch up on that

I Feel As Passionate Today As I Did 30 Years Ago

Nursing is such a varied and rewarding career, but there are so many opportunities within nursing.

And I think what you get and what I've had from nursing is a really family-friendly career that's enabled me to raise my children at the same time and be fulfilled professionally throughout my career.

I feel as passionate today about being a Nurse as I did 30 years ago when I started as a Nurse.

Staff Retention Is Key

I think retention of staff is key to the future of Children's Palliative Care, and that will be enabled, and that is being enabled through really good education and development of staff.

So the trajectory of illness that you see in a Children's Hospice is very varied, and the team needs to be highly trained to be able to care for a neonate today who might be on an end-of-life pathway or a teenager with a cancer diagnosis next week.

The complexity of care that is delivered in a Children's Hospice is huge, and staff development and staff training is really crucial to enable staff to have good job satisfaction and great opportunities to offer them integrated posts with the NHS so that the work is more varied, and we're doing that very successfully at Haven House.

The Team At Haven House Are Exceptional

The team at Haven House is an exceptional team.

It's made up of Registered General Nurses, Registered Paediatric Nurses, Registered Learning Disability Nurses, as well as highly skilled and highly trained Healthcare Support Workers.

We also have Allied Health Professionals.

So we have Physiotherapists, Counselling roles.

We even have a Music Therapist.

So you can see that there's a real sense of holistic care for that child and family, and the team, I witness every single day the team going above and beyond to not only support the children and families.

Things like making a wish come true for a child on an end-of-life pathway or even swapping shifts with a colleague who has a unexpected family emergency and needs to swap shifts.

So a really exceptional team that I work with.

The Misconceptions Around Palliative Care

I think there's lots of misconceptions around Palliative Care, and sometimes we need to educate professionals to enable them to have conversations, because lots of people think that when children come to children's Hospices, they come to die, but what families have told us is that children's Hospices like Haven House is where their children come to live.

And sadly, that might be a short journey, but on the whole, families find great comfort, and strength, and peace when they come to a children's Hospice.

Children's Palliative Care Is A Hugely Rewarding Career

The speciality is hugely rewarding.

You can work in Children's Palliative Care in a Hospital environment.

You can work in Children's Palliative Care in a community environment, or you can work in Children's Palliative Care in a Hospice environment.

And having choices for families and enabling choices for families when they're at a devastating time in their lives is hugely rewarding.

Children's Hospices are wonderful environments for families to enable the whole family to be supported, and Children's Hospices wrap their arms around whole families by providing a holistic care package tailored to those individual needs of each family.

We have beautiful grounds at Haven House.

We have wonderful support therapists available to enable families to have holistic care, true holistic care.

I Would Really Encourage You To Consider A Career In Children's Palliative Care

I think what's important is that services like Haven House are sustainable and that Hospices are enabled to work in partnership with their health and social care colleagues to provide the best possible quality of life and personalised care for babies, children, and young people with life-limiting conditions and life-threatening conditions.

We know from the research that the numbers are increasing and the complexity is higher.

And we know that the prevalence is highest in the under 1s, and this is due to a number of reasons, including the advent of technology and the really good care that these children and families receive now.

I would really encourage you to explore your local children's Hospice and consider a career in Children's Palliative Care.

Eileen White, Director of Care - Haven House Children's Hospice

About the author

  • Eileen White
    Director of Care, Haven House Children's Hospice

Eileen is a dual registered Adult and Sick Children’s Nurse with over 30 years of experience in health care in London and the South East. Eileen has worked across local and tertiary centres as well as community palliative care and hospice leadership. This includes 12 years working at Great Ormond Street hospital mainly specialising in paediatric haematology/oncology nursing.

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  • Eileen White
    Director of Care, Haven House Children's Hospice

About the author

  • Eileen White
    Director of Care, Haven House Children's Hospice

Eileen is a dual registered Adult and Sick Children’s Nurse with over 30 years of experience in health care in London and the South East. Eileen has worked across local and tertiary centres as well as community palliative care and hospice leadership. This includes 12 years working at Great Ormond Street hospital mainly specialising in paediatric haematology/oncology nursing.

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