'It's been an honour' says matron retiring after 31-year spell at Severn Hospice

She has been a calming presence for more than 30 years, but now one of Severn Hospice’s most senior nurses is preparing for her final shift.

Helen Duce will be stepping down from her role as Matron of Inpatient Services on New Year’s Eve
Helen Duce will be stepping down from her role as Matron of Inpatient Services on New Year’s Eve

After caring for thousands of people over her 31-year career, Helen Duce, 57, and from Minsterley, will be stepping down from her role as Matron of Inpatient Services on New Year’s Eve.

Severn Hospice opened its doors in Shrewsbury on July 12, 1989 and Helen was one of the very first nurses in.

“As soon as I heard about the fundraising to set up the hospice, I knew it was where I wanted to be,” she said.

“I have been in a very privileged position looking after patients and their families for more than 30 years.”

Helen first worked on the Perry Ward at the hospice at Bicton in Shrewsbury. In 1995, the hospice increased the number of its beds when Briedden ward was opened and was also able to provide home care.

Over the years, the organisation has expanded – in 2008 a second hospice opened in Apley, Telford, and there are now 23 beds between the two sites.

The nursing team on the first day at the hospice

Meanwhile, the final touches are being made to the brand new, purpose-built centre at Bicton, where there will be treatment rooms, day services and a cafe. It is due to open in the spring.

The community-centred services of Hospice at Home and Outreach have also increased and now four out of every five people are cared for in their own home.

Helen has journeyed through the clinical areas in various roles from day unit to community services lead and then back to Matron for inpatients.

Over the years, Helen has been responsible for overseeing hundreds of nurses and healthcare assistants.

“I have loved being at the hospice,” she said. “I’m proud of what we offer and the level of care that people receive.

“I’ve met families who have been unsure of what to expect when they come here for the first time. But everyone can see there is so much more to a hospice than just end-of-life care.

“We treat everyone with respect and dignity, we allow people to spend their time in a peaceful setting which brings them and their families great comfort.

“We help to remove some of the fear that people have about death and they can make treasured memories with their loved ones. For various reasons, that may not have been possible in a hospital environment.

“Each year, we care for thousands of people and their families who are living with incurable illness. When I started as a nurse, care could have been seen as very one dimensional and just concerned with the patient but now it is about the patient and their families, they are not two separate things.

“I feel very honoured to have worked at Severn Hospice – I’ve met and cared for many amazing people and I feel very proud of what we stand for.

“It’s never been difficult for me coming to work. I love spending time with people to communicate how much we care. That’s the meaning of it all.”

Heather Tudor, the hospice’s chief executive said: “Helen will be greatly missed here at the hospice.

“During her 31 years Helen has held a number of positions, progressing steadily to the position of Matron. She has grown with the organization supporting the significant development of the hospice service. Helen has seen us through many challenges including the Coronavirus pandemic, and she has done so in a very calm and professional way.

“Helen really does sum up what the hospice is about, and we’re very sad to see her go. She will be a very hard act to follow.”

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