A job which began on Valentine’s Day was the beginning of a 25 year love affair for Jenny Burrell.
And now the mum-of-two, who says it’s a privilege to care for people in their final days, will be taking to the dance floor with partner Paul to raise funds for the Hospice of St Francis.
But before the fundraising challenge Jenny, 51, will be celebrating her work milestone over tea and cake with fellow hospice staff before spending Valentine’s Day itself in Paris.
Jenny, who lives in Hemel Hempstead, followed her mother’s footsteps into nursing but at that point she had never considered the world of palliative care.
Then one day she came across a young patient who had spent some time in a hospice.
“I really had no idea at that point what a hospice was all about,” she said.
But the following week she saw job advertised at a hospice in Hampstead. She thought she’d do it for around six months, but ended up staying for five years.
Later she came across the Hospice of St Francis, then based in Berkhamsted, during a work placement.
“I was just overwhelmed by how lovely it was and I thought if I ever left London I would like to work there,” she said.
In 1989 that’s exactly what happened when Jenny joined the hospice as a bank nurse, so that she could juggle working with being a mother to two young daughters.
Then she took up a permanent position working three days a week, was later promoted to senior staff nurse and 12 years ago moved up to sister.
Jenny said: “I do feel it is a privilege to be with patients and families during this very precious and valuable time of life.”
She has seen the hospice move from its cramped base in Berkhamsted to a purpose built facility in Northchurch, where the number of beds on offer were boosted from eight to 14 – but still more are needed.
“The worst thing about the job is not being able to admit everybody. The hardest thing is when you are saying to relatives: ‘Unfortunately we haven’t got a bed’ and for those patients there isn’t a second chance,” said Jenny.
Hospice director of clinical governance Alison Allard said: “I’m immensely proud of the work Jenny does, not only in ensuring the highest standards of patient care but also inspiring her team and others in the palliative care world with her first rate skills, knowledge and leadership.
“Every week I receive glowing reports from families that the care is outstanding and this is all down to her leadership.”
Jenny and Paul are taking part in this year’s hospice fundraiser Strictly Learn Dancing. To sponsor them visit www.justgiving.com/Jen-Paul-Strictly