Barbara Tingley, a Healthcare Assistant, recently passed an extraordinary 30 year service milestone at St Wilfrid’s Hospice in Eastbourne. She explains why she feels compelled to work beyond her retirement.

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An extraordinary achievement


There are many long-serving hospice staff across the UK who have for many years worked tirelessly, and compassionately, to help care for people at the end of their lives.

Barbara is one of those people. She’s recently passed the 30 year milestone – and her colleagues celebrated her extraordinary achievement by throwing a surprise party at the hospice.

“I thought they were up to something when they asked me to come in on my day off, but I never imagined they’d throw a party!” said Barbara.

Working at the hospice: a family affair


Incredibly, Barbara, 70, is one of three generations from the same family to work at the hospice. Daughter Lauren and granddaughter Charlie both work as Care at Home Nurses in the Community Team, and husband Chris volunteers on the Inpatient Unit.

After spells in Eastbourne working at a hospital and then a nursing home, Barbara joined St Wilfrid’s in 1993 as a Healthcare Assistant on the Inpatient Unit.

She says that she was inspired to join the hospice for personal reasons: “I started working at the hospice after I lost my dad. The hospice Care at Home Team looked after him and I thought they were really good. I was working in a nursing home but when a job came up at the hospice, I applied.

“I'm responsible for the daily care of patients, making sure they're comfortable and all their needs are met. I also look after relatives and make sure they have all the information they need. When patients and their relatives first come in here, they can be quite scared, so I help reassure them.”

Why do I do it? I love hearing their stories


Barbara’s favourite part of the job is being able to have close contact with patients and building relationships with them. “I love hearing their stories,” she adds, “and they love telling you about their life. You meet all sorts of different people.

"I'll always remember the first person I looked after. It was a gentleman whose wife is now a volunteer at the hospice, and I spent a lot of time with them.”

“You connect with people, and you know you're contributing to giving them the best end of life care that they can have. It’s the last thing that you can do for somebody who is not going to get better.” 

What was the biggest change during those 30 years at St Wilfrid’s? Barbara says it was the move from an old residential property to the current purpose-built site:

“The house could only accommodate six patients at a time, and it felt like going into someone's home. It was small, so we got to know everybody who came in. But we had to move because we needed more beds and more space. It was a bit of a shock to start with – because it was the complete opposite!”

Barbara Tingley and her family at her 30th anniversary celebration
Barbara and family at her 30th anniversary party

'She's always on the side of the patient’


It’s thanks to the incredible commitment by staff like Barbara that hospices are able to offer such brilliant, compassionate end of life care.

“Barbara has a very big heart and is always on the side of the patient,” adds Ruth Bacon, St Wilfrid’s Associate Director for Clinical Services. “She always wants the best for them and their families. When new staff join, Barbara is always happy to share her wealth of experience and take them under her wing. She’s part of the St Wilfrid’s family and has made us part of hers.”

Despite celebrating 30 years of service, Barbara says that she still hopes to be at the hospice for years to come: “It's not a chore to come to work, and that's why I'm still working past retirement. I’ll know when it's time to go but it will be a sad day…it's been a part of my life for so long.”