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Alumni Story An Interview with Kim Hayden Clinical Nurse Specialist Palliative Care

Tuesday, 1 August, 2023

News Item Kim Hayden

Kim qualified as a nurse at the Adelaide Hospital, Dublin in 1993. She worked for several years as a staff nurse gaining experience in a variety of medical and surgical areas and later went on to work in public health.

After taking up a position as clinical co-ordinator in oncology, Kim undertook a Graduate Diploma in Cancer Nursing in UCD and now specialises in Palliative Care. 

Kim completed an MSc in Palliative Care in 2017 researching levels of knowledge of palliative radiotherapy. She subsequently published her research in the British Journal of Nursing and presented her findings nationally and internationally, winning a prize at the American Society for Radiation Oncology conference in Texas. In collaboration with colleagues, Kim has produced a guide for patients undergoing palliative radiotherapy treatment.

Kim participated in an Erasmus research project examining legal and ethical issues at end-of-life in the University of L’Aquila, Italy. 

She is currently working as a Clinical Nurse Specialist in Palliative Care in St Vincent’s Private Hospital. 

What led you to study nursing? Did you always know you wanted to specialise in palliative care? 

When still in school, I worked part time as a healthcare assistant at a nursing home and this experience inspired me to study nursing. The charge nurse was so compassionate, always trying to make every day the best it could be for residents.

I didn’t know then that I would specialise in palliative care, but it certainly gave me a wonderful grounding in caring for people with life-limiting illnesses. 

What advice would you give to someone considering studying nursing?

Nursing is a challenging career, however, with it comes opportunities to work and progress in a wide variety of specialities. Making a difference in the lives of patients and their loved ones is what makes it all worthwhile.

What is your fondest memory from your time at UCD? 

One of the highlights for me was my graduation ceremony. I felt a great sense of achievement and it was wonderful to celebrate the occasion with my family who supported and encouraged me throughout my studies.

What is the proudest moment of your career to date? 

I work with an amazing team of people, and it makes me so proud that the patient is always at the centre of what we do. It is a privilege to be able to deliver compassionate care to patients and families at their time of greatest need.

What have been the most challenging aspects of your career? 

Nursing during the pandemic was definitely the most challenging period of my career.

I was working in community palliative care at the time and our practice had to rapidly adapt and evolve to be able to safely assess and care for patients with life-limiting illnesses and those who were dying at home. Communication styles and relationship building had to be adapted. We stuck photos on our gowns to let the patient see who the stranger behind the mask and goggles was. 

Face-to-face contact was limited to as short a time and as physically distant as possible, and prioritised for those who were in the dying phase or whose symptoms were unstable and couldn’t be managed by a ‘virtual’ visit. Such a traumatic time for vulnerable and very sick patients and for those whose loved ones died, particularly those with Covid, the impact of enforced isolation, altered grief rituals and funerals was profound. 

Did you witness anything during the pandemic which made you particularly proud to be a nurse? 

My mum sadly died in ICU during the pandemic and to witness the expert complex care provided by the nurses delivered with such kindness and empathy made me proud of our profession. 

In your career and/or personal life, who have been the most inspiring or helpful mentors/advisors that you’ve had to date?

I have worked with so many inspirational colleagues over the years, but there is one nurse in particular, who has always encouraged and given me the confidence to enhance my skills and improve my knowledge.The tutors in the School of Nursing, Midwifery and Health Systems at UCD were also pivotal in helping my nursing career to develop and progress. 

As a nurse, how has ongoing professional development helped your career?

Returning to college allowed me to progress my career and work as a clinical nurse specialist. I’ve had the opportunity to travel abroad to present my research and work with expert healthcare professionals. I am always keen to share my knowledge and was delighted to be asked by UCD to facilitate a teaching session as part of the symptom management module for Palliative Care students.

What do you do to relax? Tell us a bit about your current life, family, and hobbies. 

I am married to Ciaran and together we have three adult children and a dog. We live in an old cottage by the sea where I love to garden and cook. At Christmas time, I run workshops where I teach people how to make decorations.

What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given? 

‘Good Manners aren’t a heavy load to carry’. I think it is so important to treat everyone as you would like to be treated.

Contact the UCD School of Nursing, Midwifery & Health Systems

Health Sciences Centre, University College Dublin, Belfield, Dublin 4
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