Life in Isolation: A day at our Norfolk hospice

Earlier in the month, Acting CEO Tracy Rennie went to work at The Nook, our hospice in Norfolk. To give our staff and supporters a real insight into the care activity currently going on in our hospices, she enthusiastically shared her thoughts with us… 

Earlier this month, I spent the day working at The Nook.

I wanted to catch up with everybody because services are being delivered there in the hospice and it was important for me to go and say hello, check how everything was going and see how everybody was working in a new and very different way.

When I came in the building what struck me was how calm and organised everything was, and how everybody’s working in a completely different way, as though they’ve always been doing it, which was quite amazing really.

We’ve generally been talking about the service being fairly quiet, because we’re not doing face-to-face support, however, when you’re there and you’re listening to the care staff, what they’re doing, who they’re ringing, the care they’re coordinating…

I listened to the service manager, who was trying to arrange end of life care in the community for a child who lives in quite a remote area. She was talking with others about how they were going to arrange pulling staff together from other locations, so they could provide care at The Nook whilst releasing staff to go and deliver care more locally for this child.

That was really interesting because those conversations don’t happen in five minutes. She was on the phone for a good half hour or even more, just getting those conversations off the ground, then following them up with other people.

I went down into the care area to say hello to everybody and met the care team in their scrubs. They find the scrubs easy to work in because they have pockets in all the right places. They were social distancing and all busy doing their work.

I went in and saw a care planning meeting. One of our team was on a laptop, working from home and contributing, and everybody else was either sitting or standing two metres apart, working in a very different way, but again looking like they’d been doing it forever. It was amazing.

They were having very complex conversations about how they were supporting a family to be able to provide care at home. It was not only the care of the child, but emotional health and wellbeing support for the family, then also really practical issues about bedroom organisation, placement of cot and all sorts of different things. They were really attending to all of the detail to support this family and get them ready for going home in a couple weeks’ time.

When I was in the room, I also saw we’ve got training stations for staff to learn how to appropriately put on and take off, or don and doff, as they’re calling it, PPE. There are training stations refreshing how to care for a child that’s ventilated, too. These are all set up and it’s just happened without us realising. They’re just getting on with it.

Later in the day, I was able to see a member of the team, Penny, being fit-tested for a mask. I don’t think people outside of care understand what you have to do to make sure your face mask fits properly. There are particular face masks, such as the FFP3 masks, you have to wear for particular types of procedures, so staff have to be appropriately trained, know the right equipment to wear and how to make sure that face masks fit them properly.

There was a charity wide weekly panel meeting and it’s really clear now that families are starting to feel the strain of having to care for their child 24-hours a day in isolation. The previous week, The Nook had provided some emergency crisis care and it was really clear from the conversations that staff are having to consider how they’re going to provide support to families at home, including those that use The Treehouse and Milton.

We all recognise when we see people delivering face-to-face care, but we don’t appreciate all the time taken and how long it takes ringing people, coordinating things, making sure the supplies are there.

Everything’s lined up, so everybody knows who’s doing what in a family home. Actually, that’s business as usual for staff because they always have to do that on the phone or virtually. It’s not face-to-face stuff that you do because you’re liaising with other community teams, other staff, other external professionals.

I’ve talked a lot about the care staff, but they don’t run our hospices in isolation. I was warmly welcomed by Annie in reception, who’s working really well, really enjoying what she’s doing. She hasn’t been with us very long, so has sort of been thrust into this whole new world of different ways of working.

We also have our great facilities, cleaning and catering teams around, carrying on doing the work they need to do whilst making sure they’re social distancing.

Again, everyone was just getting on with it. It was incredibly motivating to be with the team. They’re doing really, really well and it was just a really great insight to what is really happening in the hospice buildings and in care at a time when a lot of us are very remote from what’s happening, and it’s less easy to feel connected.

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