Insights

    Recognizing Excellence in Hospice During Women's History Month

    How Dame Cicely Saunders Revolutionized Hospice Care

    Shanon Strickler
    3/11/2021

    Snowline celebrates March as National Women's History Month! We take this month to recognize the accomplishments of women who advanced the field of hospice care in the face of adversity. Today, we acknowledge "The Mother" of Hospice, Cicely Saunders. Dame Cicely Saunders is known for founding the first modern hospice and, more than anybody else, was responsible for establishing the discipline and palliative care culture. She introduced effective pain management and insisted that dying people needed dignity, compassion, respect, and rigorous scientific methodology in testing treatments. Saunders introduced the idea of "total pain," which included the physical, emotional, social, and spiritual dimensions of distress. Saunders knew she could best help dying patients by becoming a doctor, and at age 33, she qualified to become a medical student at St Thomas' Hospital.
    After qualifying, she obtained a research scholarship at St Mary's Hospital, Paddington, where she studied pain management in the incurably ill, and at the same time worked at St Joseph's, a hospice for the dying poor in Bayswater, run by nuns. Here she used her medical expertise and research findings to help the nuns improve their standard of care. Saunders devoted herself to her cause, and by late 1959, she had drawn up a 10-page proposal for a hospice. Building work started in 1965 and was designed to contain 54 inpatient beds, and there were plans for those who needed respite care and home care services. The first patient was admitted in 1967 and the hospice soon extended its activities to include research and a study center!
    We applaud Dame Cicely Saunders for her inception of hospice care and her mission to provide compassionate care to patients nearing end-of-life.


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