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Monday, 01 September 2014

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After 17 years, nurse Jane Jones leaves Eden Valley Hospice to fulfil camper van dream

It was really chance that brought Jane Jones and the Eden Valley Hospice together, but 17 years later she believes it was always meant to be.

Jane Jones photo
Jane Jones

The popular nurse has just retired from what became far more than a job and says it was a tough decision to leave.

Jane, 61, of Wetheral, will be missed by many at the Carlisle day hospice. Over the years she has supported many families affected by life-limiting illnesses like cancer, and she still remembers them all.

But with husband Alan also retiring, she knew it was the right time to say her goodbyes and get ready to fulfil their dream – travelling around Europe in a camper van.

Originally from Birkenhead and later Blackpool, Jane came to Cumbria to complete her training and went on to work as a theatre nurse.

But then after marrying husband Alan 35 years ago, he was struggling to find work as an architect in the UK. The newlyweds went to Canada, where they spent the next 12 years and had their three daughters – Caroline, now 31, Sarah, 29 and Becky, 26.

The family moved around a lot, settling for periods in Calgary, Vancouver and Nova Scotia. As well as being a mum, Jane held down various jobs, working with disabled children and also in nursing.

In 1990 they decided it was time to come home, settling in Cumbria.

“It had been so long since I’d nursed in the UK I wasn’t sure about going back into it, so at first I worked in the schools system,” she said.

“It was chance, or maybe fate, that I started at the hospice. My daughter spotted the job in The Cumberland News. She just said what have you got to lose – just apply! I rang up and spoke to one of the nurses, then I applied and got the job.”

After a couple of years on the ward, Jane moved on to daycare, which is where she says she really found her calling.

Although she was nursing people with terminal illnesses – a role most people would struggle with emotionally – her unfaltering enthusiasm and everlasting smile made her the ideal person for the job.

Those qualities have helped patients overcome their initial fear of the hospice and make the most of the time they have left, whether it is weeks, months or years.

“The best bit has been feeling I am able to give something to people who are vulnerable.

“I’m very bubbly. I’ve always got a smile on my face. I know I’m loud but everyone has said they will miss my laugh!” she said.

“I’m not saying it’s all happiness. There have been some really sad times.

“We have cried but I always say the day you stop crying is the day you should stop nursing.”

The day hospice has grown considerably since Jane started working there. It now has a dedicated activities co-ordinator, regular clinics, complementary therapies, a visiting hairdresser and carers’ group – all supported volunteers who Jane said are key to its success.

She said the team were like a family and she was already missing being part of that, and particularly the close relationship she has had with fellow nurse Heather King.

“I did struggle to leave. It’s been very special,” she said.

“We’ve worked so closely we’re almost like sisters. We’ve had to be strong for each other and pick each other up when times have been hard, but we’ve also laughed a lot.”

Jane added that the hospice was very different from the NHS because nursing staff are given the time to spend with patients.

“The hospice is still true nursing. At the infirmary, as much as the staff are great, they just do not have time. I really feel for them,” she said.

Jane is still adjusting to life without the hospice but is ready for her next adventure. As well as spending time with granddaughters Amelia, three, and Esme, one, she and Alan are in the process of buying their own mobile home so they can pick up where they left off when they were younger and see the rest of Europe.

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