Sarah’s story


I’ve been a Chef at St Clare Hospice for 10 years now. I started when I was 16, after I did a catering course at school. I never originally meant to go into cooking, but I’m so glad I did. It had always been a hobby and passion of mine, right from when I used to help my Mum in the kitchen.”

“At college, I studied Events Management for three years, which includes learning about all aspects of organising an event – including cooking. You’ve got to be very organised to do that job, which I take pride in. All the volunteers at St Clare always say how tidy and organised the kitchen is here!”

“When I saw an advert in the paper to join St Clare as a Chef 10 years ago, I decided to apply because I was enjoying my college course. I never thought I’d get it, because it’s all based on experience, but my college tutor knew Ed, the Head Chef here at St Clare, and it was a great icebreaker. Julie, the Facilities Manager at the time, said it was a gamble that they took me on at 16 years old, but she always said it really paid off!”

“My role at St Clare is to prepare food for patients and families, in addition to staff and Day Therapy groups at lunchtime, and when food is needed for an event.”

“It’s really rewarding to work here because I know it makes a difference to patients and their families when we’re able to cater for their needs and make what they like to eat.”

“People assume that if they’re staying at St Clare on our Inpatient Unit, they’ll be given a piece of paper at the start of the day and have to tick what meals they want. Actually, the kitchen staff always have one on one contact with the patients.”

“We introduce ourselves, and take time to get to know the people we cook for.”

“Talking about food just breaks the ice so that people feel comfortable, which is one of the most important things here at St Clare. Sometimes, at first people don’t want to talk and want to be on their own, but eventually they are saying that they don’t want to leave! People say the food is so good that they want to take me home with them!”

“We get to know people, and get to know what they like and need. It might be a dietary requirement or allergy, or just the fact that they like to have their dinner in a bowl or to have a smaller portion. Little details we remember like that are what people appreciate. They don’t have to keep asking.”

“We often make ‘special’ food for people, too.”

“When we go and talk to people we find out what they like, what their favourite food is, or what they normally cook at home. If a patient asks for something in particular, which isn’t on the menu, we’re happy to make it for them.”

“If someone really wants something, we’ll go out and buy the ingredients for them. Sometimes it’s about changing or adapting what we cook depending on a patient’s medical needs – I make a lot of milkshakes, smoothies and pureed foods, all from fresh.”

“Going that extra mile for people just means so much. It’s so warming to hear a family member say, ‘thank you, they really enjoyed that,’ and sometimes it might be the last thing their loved one ate.”

“We put our hearts and souls into the food we cook at St Clare, and its so rewarding to know we’ve helped or pleased someone. My role definitely gives back to me – especially when people ask for the recipe!”

“We look after everyone at St Clare. Families who are staying with their loved ones on our Inpatient Unit are so grateful for the lengths we go to – even if it’s just making them a tea or some breakfast so they don’t have to leave.”

“Some people don’t have their own families to bring them in the things they like from home or from the shops, or they might not have anyone visiting for a couple of days. When we can, we are always happy to provide that care. We do it just to see them happy because we know how much it means.”

“We want people to feel settled and comfortable, and help them to feel at home. When you’re facing a life-limiting illness, it’s those little things like enjoying a meal that can mean the world.”

“We often bake cakes for people, too. Some people say the food looks so good they don’t want to eat it! They look forward to it though, and it’s the little things like that which make my role so rewarding.”

“We try to help people to feel as comfortable as possible, but we understand when people are worried about coming into the hospice. When I first came here, I shared those same negative perceptions about what hospices were like.”

“I wasn’t sure what it would be like to work here; it was daunting, at age 16. But as soon as I gave it a chance, I knew I liked it here.”

“If you’ve never been to a hospice before, my best advice would be to not judge it before you come here.”

“People think it’s all doom and gloom, but when you actually get to know St Clare you realise it’s not what you thought. That’s what I love hearing from people.”

“Sometimes, I see patients again from years ago. If they’ve attended Day Therapy or stayed with us on the Inpatient Unit previously, they sometimes return to us. Because I’ve been here for 10 years, they recognise me and see a familiar face again, and it makes them feel comfortable.”

“People often ask me if it’s daunting to work at a hospice, but actually, I love my job. You get good and bad days, like with any job, but it’s so rewarding. Sometimes people do die with us, and sometimes they return home. People don’t realise that we have so many diverse care services to offer right from the point of diagnosis.”

“It’s the big picture with St Clare – it’s the clinical care you get, and it’s also the compassion you get from support staff like us. We all work together to make people feel comfortable and happy.”

“My favourite part about the job is my team. Ed, Sam, Wendy and I make up a brilliant team – it just works! We flow together easily, and the support we get from our volunteers is just priceless. We couldn’t do it without them! St Clare is like my second home, and I find it a little break from being a full-time mum to my two beautiful children. I get to have adult conversations and have a little bit of time out from the kids!”

“Even before having my children, St Clare changed my perspective on things.”

“When things are going on at home, you come in to St Clare and it just puts it all into perspective for you. I don’t worry about the little arguments or worries anymore – I forget it because I’ve learned to just cherish everything. I enjoy my life to the fullest now, and treasure the moments when I can please people and make them happy.”

– Sarah

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