After 12 years as our Medical Director, Dr Susan Salt is moving on quite literally to pastures new as she retrains as a priest in the Church of England.
Dr Susan arrived with us in 2007 as our founder, Dr David Cooper, announced he was retiring. She’s seen a lot of changes, including improvements in the treatment of long term conditions, the introduction of Hospice at Home over night and the developing partnership between organisations involved in caring for people with a life limiting illness
But she says her first impression of Trinity as an organisation full of commitment and passion to put patients at the very heart of the hospice’s work remains her abiding memory.
She says: “Trinity is an organisation that cares – not just about the patients and families, but also about its staff. To walk away from it all will be incredibly painful. But I do feel I am leaving Trinity in a very good position.
“It’s hard to describe how big it feels to be moving on. It’s so exciting to have the privilege and opportunity to do something different at my time of life; to actually be given the opportunity to take up a new profession.”
Dr Susan will leave us at the end of March, and will be ordained as a deacon at Blackburn Cathedral in June. She will then continue her training in a rural parish near Beacon Fell before becoming a priest in 2020.
She said: “I think there are transferable skills between what I am doing now and what I will be doing, largely in terms of being alongside people, listening to them and sharing their lives.”
Since 2007 Dr Susan has seen huge changes in how medical conditions are diagnosed and treated, which has completely transformed how we care for our patients.
She said: “The complexity of illness is definitely increasing – because people are living longer they get more complex symptoms which means we are constantly being challenged to do more.”
Dr Susan has also noted a shift in people’s attitude towards death and dying, but says more needs to be done to embrace those difficult conversations.
“Death and dying will always be a big taboo; it’s the final mystery – the final point in our lives which raises huge questions about who we are and what’s left when we’re gone,” she said.
“It’s not an easy subject, but it’s one we should and need to engage with and we are doing it more. It’s a frightening subject but we should not stop talking about it.
“The whole essence of hospices and palliative care is about living until the moment that we die. If we are brave enough to think about death and dying we can live our lives to the best of our ability in as full a way as we can.”
Dr Susan says she is very privileged to have been welcomed into families at an extremely difficult time, and takes that with her as she leaves.
She added: “Our patients and their families are huge sources of inspiration. Those who I meet and get involved with deal with the pain and stress of their lives coming to an end with such strength and dignity that they make me feel very humble.”
“It is a privilege for us to walk alongside these families and to be part of their lives for a very short time, albeit a very poignant and private time.”
Dr Susan has also seen first-hand how much support in the community there is for Trinity Hospice, without which we simply wouldn’t be here.
She said: “I have been overwhelmed at the generosity of the community, and how much money is donated and fundraised from those people living here, as well as how many people give up their time to be a volunteer.
“We have such an impressive amount of volunteers, the hospice simply couldn’t run without them; not only those who come to work in the hospice but also all those people who go out into the community and do all they can to help raise money so we can be here for everyone who needs us.”
The Rev Matt Allen, Director of Studies for Blackburn Diocese and the All Saints Centre, said: “It has been a delight to be involved in Susan’s training for ordained ministry over the past couple of years.
“She is someone of vast experience who recognises the needs of others in the community and responds with both wisdom and compassion.
“I am convinced that she will be a person of faith, hope and love among those whom she will serve.”
Dr Susan will be hosting a farewell study morning here at the hospice on 28th March for local health and social care professionals to reflect on all the work being done across all organisations in palliative and end-of-life care.