In Conversation with…

Jean Peet, Wigan hospice's first Matron

Jean Peet

Jean Peet believed in the hospice movement from the very start. She took a leap of faith into the unknown, led only by her passion to care for others. Jean recently visited the hospice to share her memories.

I began my career in the care sector at just 15 years old. At 20, I almost gave it up, following the sudden passing of my mother. However, after a conversation with my Matron who told me “You can’t give up this nursing, you’re a good nurse”, I decided to pursue my passion. My own bereavement taught me how to care for bereaved people. And this is where the journey to my involvement in Wigan Hospice
really began.

Whilst serving as Ward Sister at Wrightington, I had the privilege of meeting Dr Phillip Silver, who was heavily involved in trialling a drug to help cancer patients, and through this, was working closely with the hospice Home-Care Service.

When I was interviewed for my role at the hospice on 30th November 1982 it was on the understanding that the position would be confirmed once the opening of the hospice was secure. I accepted my position on August 1st 1983, one month before the hospice in Poolstock was formally opened.

What began from nowhere, other than the desire to care, became so much more. And this didn’t go unnoticed. Our funding came largely from the generosity of the people of Wigan. They too felt this desire.

In 1983, when I employed my first nurses, I employed them on the agreement that we may have to close the hospice if the funding required didn’t transpire. But it did. And on the afternoon of Wednesday 15th December 1984, Wigan Hospice was officially opened by the Countess of Westmorland.

My amazing team of nurses offered a 1:1 ratio of patient care and were continually praised by the families of those we cared for. I can’t quite explain what it was like to nurse. It was lovely, just lovely. We learned so much from those patients.

I once met a young girl who was training to become a nurse but was reluctant to train at the hospice. She was scared, she had never experienced death. I told her, our patients are not dying, they’re living, and our job was to ensure that anybody who came into our hospice, whether for end of life care, or for pain management, could enjoy their life, for as long as they could.

I’ve had a truly fantastic career. To be there, at the very beginning of what has become Wigan & Leigh Hospice was an honour. I had a feeling in my heart that we were at the start of something very special. But we must remember that without the generosity of the people of our town, we wouldn’t have made it beyond the first year, and for that I am truly grateful. Those people allowed me to follow my passion; to care for the people of my town.