In Conversation With...our palliative care consultant Lucy Pain, who spent some of her early weeks in a university desk drawer!
Here is the next instalment of our new series: In Conversation With… introducing Lucy Pain, palliative care consultant and our clinical lead for end of life care.
Lucy is passionate about her role at our Trust, and providing good end of life care to every patient.
She also had an intellectual start to life – her mum returned to work as a university lecturer just six weeks after having her and when she didn’t like the nursery, kept Lucy in a drawer in her office until she found a suitable childminder!
Lives: in east Finchley, north London, with husband Simon, 41 (also a doctor), and kids Hugh, seven, Alice, five, and Rosie, two.
Did you always want to be a doctor?
It’s all I can remember wanting to be. It started when I was about 10 and watching Casualty, I thought it looked like an exciting job. I also liked James Herriot, although he was a vet not a doctor! He wrote books and had a TV series about his work and was out and about in the community a lot, which appealed to me.
Tell us a bit more about your career, and you role at our Trust
Starting medical school was quite scary and there was a lot more hard work involved than I anticipated! I went to Barts and the London and did three years of my training at our Trust, working at Harold Wood and Oldchurch hospitals.
I started in respiratory medicine at the Royal London Hospital, and also worked in oncology and urology early on.
I joined our Trust in 2015 in my first consultant role. It was really nice to come back as it’s much friendlier than some of the London teaching hospitals.
I’m part-time doing three days a week and I spend one clinical, one in the community doing home visits, which I really enjoy, and one concentrating on areas like the Gold Standard Framework (GSF), which is about promoting good end of life care across our hospitals.
We already have GSF on ten wards and my aim is for all relevant wards to start using it as soon possible. It’s about identifying people in their last year of life and offering them advance care planning and improving end of life care.
What made you decide to choose palliative care?
I knew early on that I wanted to work in palliative care. There are emotional downsides of course but of all the specialties I’ve worked in, it’s the one job where I’ve really seen the difference you can make to your patient and their families, and how you’re improving their quality of life in their last months.
One of the things which inspired me was the care my husband’s grandmother had when she died in 2009. She was very frail and elderly and while she had multiple heath issues, she had no terminal illness. It was difficult to get the care she needed and she didn’t get specialist palliative care, which meant she had a really difficult last year.
What are you most passionate about in your work?
Good end of life care for every patient, and that it’s everyone’s job, not just the End of Life Care or Specialist Palliative Care teams’ responsibility.
And it’s not just about when a patient is imminently dying; it’s identifying those that are in their last year or so of life and making it as comfortable as possible.
What’s the best part of your job?
My team - everyone is supportive and great at helping each other and being flexible.
It’s been a long road and I’m really satisfied with my job now. There have been times in my career when I’ve wondered if it was the right thing but I’m glad I stuck it out.
What if one of your kids wanted to follow in your footsteps?
I’d be worried as it’s very hard-going, and you have to do it for love rather than riches or glory.
We have a Specialist Palliative Care team and an End of Life Care team - can you help explain the difference?
Our End of Life Care team has a primarily educational role, so they get involved in helping our clinicians with advanced care planning, whereas our Specialist Palliative Care team provides more clinical advice.
Your husband Simon is also a doctor, how did you meet?
We were introduced at a cheesy London nightclub, Strawberry Moons, through our university friends.
He works in anaesthetics and intensive care at Whipps Cross Hospital and I’ve actually been talking to him about some of the work I’ve been doing here with our Critical Care department. I want to bring our two departments closer so this has really helped.
What do you like doing in your spare time?
I love cooking and socialising, and jogging, after I’ve eaten all the food!
I’ve also recently got into crochet. I’ve knitted for a long time and decided to teach myself to crochet from YouTube videos. It’s actually quicker than knitting and I’ve made a blanket and a hat so far for friends’ babies.
And our favourite question of In Conversation With…do you have any pets?
We inherited two fish in our garden pond when we moved in. The children named them Speedy and Slowy as one is much bigger and slower than the other.
We’re doing some work in our garden so we’re going to re-home them, hopefully to the hospital pond at Whipps Cross. We didn’t have a clue what to do with them so my husband spoke to the ‘pond man’ at Whipps!