When 2020 was designated the Year of the Nurse and Midwife, no one could have predicted what a vital role our healthcare professionals would have to play in the months to come. As the country moves into a second national lockdown, Emma, Hospice at Home Clinical Lead at Sue Ryder Leckhampton Court Hospice, looks back on the early months of the pandemic and the challenges faced by her team as they adapted to new ways of working.
Since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, Sue Ryder staff across the organisation have pulled together and demonstrated incredible resilience and courage to ensure that we continue to be there when it matters for the people who need us most.
Here, Emma talks about her team's amazing dedication, the difficulties of providing palliative care during such a critical time and how proud she is of the healthcare staff doing their utmost to keep on caring, no matter what.
Adapting to difficult times
“The team have been amazing throughout the pandemic and I am so proud of them. It was such an unusual situation because everyone was scared but they were just prepared to do whatever we needed to do to get through this.
“I think, especially early on, it was very frightening for everyone but they were still willing to do their jobs. The guidance that was coming through was changing all the time and I think what the team really appreciated from us was honesty. We were very honest with our families as well. We wrote them a letter explaining that they may not have exactly the service they had been used to which meant there were no surprises for them.”
“Wearing full PPE is hard for a palliative care team. I think everyone has found that hard because people can’t see that you are smiling”
The team adapted quickly to new ways of working, wearing Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and supporting each other through the toughest times.
“The nurses in the team normally go out to people’s homes to do face-to-face nursing assessments, but we quickly realised that this was introducing another risk to families so we started doing telephone assessments instead which actually meant we could assess more people.
“We are wearing full PPE including visors which is hard for a palliative care team. I think everyone has found that hard because people can’t see that you are smiling and it must also be incredibly difficult for patients when they haven’t met us before. It was a really hot summer and the PPE is tough to wear but our nurses know why they need to wear it.”
A real team spirit
The situation has served to bring our team of more than 20 closer together. They have supported each other throughout and that team spirit is evident as we enter a second lockdown.
“Staff were all coming back to Leckhampton for their breaks so we were spending more time together which really strengthened us as a team and also meant any worries were quickly addressed. At the beginning of the first lockdown, some staff had to stay at home and self isolate which had an impact on staffing levels. It was hard to get tested then and we were a reduced workforce at one point, but fortunately it wasn’t for long.
“Although staff are tired, this second lockdown feels different. Although it can be uncomfortable wearing PPE, staff have been wearing it since March. It is part of our routine now and we are used to it. It is no longer so difficult to access testing for staff and results are coming through quicker.”
“Although staff are tired, this second lockdown feels different. It is part of our routine now and we are used to it”
April and May also saw an increase in patients for the Hospice at Home service as more people elected to receive end-of-life care at home and avoid hospitalisation.
“With people working from home we have found families have actually had the opportunity to be more involved in care where perhaps they wouldn’t usually have been but people have been so respectful of the team. They need to maintain their distance when we are giving care and everyone has been really supportive of that. In fact, a lot of people were surprised that we were still providing care. There was a lot of love for all healthcare professionals during the first lockdown and I know the team were grateful for that.
“I am so lucky that I had a team who were prepared to do whatever was needed to support our patients and keep people at home”
“I am so lucky that I had a team who were prepared to do whatever was needed to support our patients and keep people at home. It has been a really tough and tiring few months for everyone in the team and now we are heading into another lockdown, along with winter and everything that may bring they will need to be so resilient again. They have just been absolutely amazing this year and have made me really proud.”
Year of the Nurse and Midwife
In honour of the tireless, compassionate and expert support they have given to others over the past 65 years, you can join together with us to celebrate the exceptional work our #SueRyderNurses for the #YearoftheNurseandMidwife.
And if Emma's story has inspired you, we have further information on becoming a Sue Ryder Nurse.