Personal reflections from Hilary Wilson on her 14 years in palliative care as she enters retirement

Written by Hilary Wilson – Macmillan Family Support Worker and APCSW member – September 2018


In June 2002 I was persuaded by some Palliative Care Nurses with whom I worked in my role as the Social Worker for the cancer ward at Ipswich Hospital, to apply for the position of the newly created role of Family Support Worker for their team. I wasn’t looking for a change of job, or even full time work, but the job description appealed. It felt like it had been written for me, making use of all my life and work experiences, and all the parts of those that I loved the most!

I was fortunate, I got the job! And then I had to set up the service. A new job, a mandate to work with the Palliative Care teams in the hospital and the community and to support families in whatever way was needed who were known to those teams.

14 years later I am retiring, but what a time I have had! Working in the NHS and in front line cancer services has been challenging. Setting up a service that didn’t duplicate other services already out there and that looked at the needs of the family as a whole felt like going back into the Social Work that I was trained to do in the 1970’s. Being a one man band also had its challenges, but also its benefits. Finding that actually it was often the children and young people who were the ones who needed support most fitted my love of working with that particular group. Working with many highly skilled practitioners from all sorts of different backgrounds, and then being able to develop good working relationships with schools. Setting up training for staff here at the hospital and also in schools. Being available for patients and families at the point of diagnosis and sometimes supporting them throughout their cancer journey, regardless of outcome. Supporting families in their grief, and helping schools to provide the best support too. Learning just what an impact cancer can have and the difficulties and stress of having to live with it, sometimes for many years, but without cure. The privilege of sharing some of the most difficult times of people’s lives not because I wanted too, but because they wanted or needed something that they felt I could offer.

I discovered the APCSW soon after starting the job and joined up. Whilst not the most regular attender at regional meetings – being a lone worker with no admin back-up had real challenges when it came to being out of the office for the day, to say nothing of annual leave – I loved all that is has provided. There are 2 particular highlights….


Personal Reflections from Hilary Wilson (Macmillan Family Support Worker and APCSW member)