“It is a privilege to support children and their families …”
Although formal nurse training began in 1860, it was not until 1878 that the first formal paediatric training was available. According to the Nursing and Midwifery Council, there were 55,062 children’s nurses registered in 2020, in the UK.
Karen Higgins, St Andrew’s Hospice’s Director of Clinical Services began her paediatric nurse training in Scotland, in 1982. There were limited specialist training centres for children’s nursing at that time, but Karen was determined and found the perfect place to begin her career.
After qualifying as a Registered Sick Children’s Nurse, Karen worked in a variety of children’s services and several acute hospital settings. Following a move to Northumberland in 2001, she worked as a Registered Nurse in a special needs school. During this time, a new children’s hospice was built in Newcastle, where Karen attended a presentation that inspired her to apply for a post at St Oswald’s. This is where she first began her work in children’s palliative care.
After a move to Lincolnshire in 2004, Karen looked for her nearest children’s hospice, as she knew that this was the work she wanted to pursue, and was successful in gaining a position as a Registered Children’s Nurse at Andy’s Children’s Unit, at St Andrew’s Hospice, Grimsby. Several development opportunities crossed her path and Karen became Shift Leader before becoming Deputy Manager and then Head of Service, also being supported to achieve her MA in Hospice Leadership. In recent years, she took a slight career move to managing the Support & Wellbeing Services, before reaching the position of Director of Clinical Services, for the hospice.
Karen said: “Working as a palliative care nurse is very different to acute care. I was afforded a very rewarding opportunity which allowed me to spend quality time with patients, building a relationship with the children and their families.”
Karen has worked at St Andrew’s Hospice for 17 and a half years and now leads the development of all clinical services. She is proud of the work that all staff continue to do at Andy’s Children’s Hospice. St Andrew’s Hospice strives to “Make Each Day Count” for all patients and families, and some of this is achieved because of the activities the team does with the children on a day-to-day basis. These activities include having fun through play, arts and craft activities, sensory play, family splash in the pool, going for walks and outings. All of these things help to create lasting memories for the families.
Karen concluded: “It is a privilege to support children and their families accessing Andy’s, ensuring sure that the time they have together, however long or short that may be, is filled with as much joy and memory-making as possible.”