AS the nation sounds its appreciation for the NHS, a ward nurse tells us what life is like on the frontline.
Kate Mayer was crowned Best Nurse at the Sun’s Who Cares Wins awards in 2018 — collecting her gong from Virgin Radio’s Chris Evans. Here, she takes us through her shift as a ward sister on the 23-bed endocrinology ward at Lincoln County Hospital:
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THE start of my shift. It’s my sixth day out of seven. I have butterflies in my stomach before I start these days, because you don’t know what you’re going to face.
Lincolnshire is some way behind other parts of the country in the number of patients being confirmed with Covid-19.
We have 72 cases in the county, giving me and my colleagues valuable time to be able to prepare for the extra patients we will be caring for in the coming weeks.
We know it’s the calm before the storm, but it’s all hands on deck. We start the shift with a safety huddle which includes the identification of Covid patients and those who may have it — “query-Covid”.
WE go about taking observations and routine medication rounds as usual.
To treat the Covid-positive patients, who are isolated in side rooms, we must first don our personal protective equipment (PPE) — which consists of a surgical mask, apron, gloves and goggles. It’s all single-use and we are receiving deliveries from stores every day.
What’s hard is, we need to minimise the time we spend with query-Covid and positive patients, so we try to complete their observations, medications and any other tasks at the same time.
The nature of their condition means patients are often short of breath and this can be frightening, so it’s our job to offer reassurance. Sadly we don’t have all the answers but we take time to chat and hopefully take their mind off things.
When we come out of the sideroom, the PPE comes off again and we wash our hands.
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I DISHED out hand cream for everyone. We’re always vigilant with hand hygiene, but we are being extra careful now, so our hands are extremely sore. Our lips too, which dry out under the masks.
We’ve had a few tears among the team recently, but we have supported each other. It’s mentally draining, because we just don’t know what will happen.
All we can do is prepare ourselves, which is strange because how do you prepare for something that has never happened in our lifetimes before?
SENT a text message to all the staff who are currently off, either because they have symptoms or a family member has.
Members of my team have picked up extra shifts and will continue to do so over the next few weeks, because they are amazing.
The Trust has been brilliant at keeping staff informed with daily bulletins, executives have been on the wards asking if staff are OK and taking part in weekly Facebook Live chats.
There’s also an emergency hotline for staff to ask questions. We feel really supported here and that’s going to make a difference when things get tough. All disciplines are taking on new roles and learning new skills to ensure our patients and staff stay safe.
IT’S nice when you get to tell a patient they have tested negative for Covid.
You can see the relief on their face. It’s even more amazing when you discharge them home, knowing that you have helped them overcome the unknown and return to their loved one.
HELPED an elderly patient connect with their family via FaceTime. Some of the elderly patients don’t have a mobile phone and haven’t used this sort of technology.
The Trust has been amazing, providing wards access to iPads so patients can keep in touch with their families.
This has helped with patients’ wellbeing, as we are not allowing any visitors at this time.
It can be upsetting for patients to be alone, especially as this is often the first time they have been away from their family. The joy on their face when they connect with family is a privilege to see. It brings a tear to your eye and reminds you of your family at home.
GRABBED a quick break. The restaurant is now for staff only and we can’t sit in groups.
A lot of staff are bringing a packed lunch now which means we can stay on our own ward and not move around the hospital too much.
NORMAL duties continue. Dressings, care planning and observations. We’re doing a lot more cleaning, so whenever we have five minutes spare then we’re wiping down surfaces and door handles.
Discharged a patient and sent them home with a package from the food bank we’ve set up on the ward.
It means vulnerable patients have a few essentials. It’s one less thing for them to worry about.
ANOTHER meds round. Over the next few weeks, we’ll see matrons and other senior staff on the wards to support.
All staff across the trust are preparing to be redeployed to support our A&E department, wards and units.
END of the shift and I can head home, where I am currently sleeping in the spare room.
I’m being careful to limit my contact with my husband and 14-year-old son, Kallum. Even though I’m following all the hygiene and PPE procedures, I would blame myself if either of them started with symptoms and that’s a worry for any health professional.
The Trust has offered accommodation if the worst-case scenario occurs and that’s what many of us will do to protect our families and enable us to continue to care for our patients.
It’s a sacrifice we are prepared to make.
It still doesn’t feel real. It’s like a bad dream. But we will fight and we will win because we are the NHS — and we have got this!
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