Sheila Gilbert came to St. Richard’s in 1987 from St Ann’s hospice in Manchester to manage the growing nursing team. She arrived at a challenging time for the hospice and many of the interviewees for this project believe that the direction and development of the organisation at this time were largely down to Sheila; her experience and ability in managing people, her sensitivity in getting the GPs and Primary Care teams on board, and her sense of humour and dedication to the hospice service. In her interview, she talks about her nurse training and the different roles she had before getting involved in palliative care. Sheila also talks about her job at St Richard’s, the move from Castle Street to Rose Hill and the changes she experienced in the service over more than a decade.
Sheila grew up on a farm in the Republic of Ireland, went to boarding school in Northern Ireland and trained as a nurse in Manchester. She first came across the hospice service when St Ann’s was built in Heald Green, South Manchester, in 1971. As a district nurse, Sheila didn’t have much contact with the hospice. She says, ‘We knew that they looked after people who were dying but we didn’t know much more than that’. In the following extract, she explains how all this changed when, as Nursing Officer for Berry and Lancashire, she booked a doctor to give a talk on bereavement.
Sheila says she learnt about palliative care on the job, and at home too. Her husband Fred’s mother and later aunt came to live with them at the end of their lives, and both died at their home. Sheila’s own parents also died and it felt like the right time to move from Manchester. Sheila saw an advert for St Richard’s in the Nursing Times and was offered the job in 1987. In this extracts, she talks about arriving at a difficult time for the fledgling hospice service.
As the service grew, Castle Street just wasn’t big enough to house the expanding hospice. Peter Tebbit, now in charge of administration, started looking for a larger property. In this extract, Sheila talks about her first visit to Rose Hill, how having the extra space was ‘a joy’ and enabled the service to grow, and how she managed the team, often with black humour.
Sheila retired in 1995. In this final extract, she explains why she felt it was time for her to go, and how the staff celebrated her retirement.