I’ve worked for John Taylor Hospice for nearly a year and worked for another hospice for seven years so have plenty of valuable experience and knowledge of palliative care in both inpatient and community settings – but I’ve never worked like this before!
My current role usually involves me supporting patients and families in their own homes, reviewing symptoms and offering support with advance care planning. But when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, we knew the world of palliative care was likely to change and it would have an impact on our service.
When lockdown measures were put in place in late March, they caused vulnerable people, such as myself, to shield and work from home.
This was a huge challenge for me, as it was a total change to my usual working practice. I have always been a hands-on nurse and was now expected to provide support to patients and families via telephone contact only.
One of my areas of work is encouraging patients to make decisions around advance care planning and which treatments they would or would not want to have. With COVID-19 such a risk to so many of our patients these conversations took on an added importance at this time.
I found it difficult to have these discussions via telephone, as I am a very compassionate and caring nurse, and would normally endeavour to have these conversations face-to-face due to their sensitive nature. I also felt that some of the patients and their families may also have found this awkward. These can be difficult conversations but we understand the importance of advance care planning to help ensure, where possible, our patient choices are respected – as we only get one chance of getting it right.
As the infection and death rates continue to fall, and the lockdown measures continue to ease, my other hospice colleagues are now increasing their visits again, and supporting patients and families in the local community. I have also made my first visits back to the hospice and it’s been lovely to see everyone again.
My manager and colleagues have been so understanding and supportive throughout this time and have done everything possible to try and keep me included with what is happening in the hospice and community. Whether that is by telephone contact, email or online meetings we are keeping in touch. The Wellbeing Team and weekly newsletters have also be very useful, as they have allowed me to adapt ways of coping, and managing some of the stress/doubts I’ve had around not coming ‘into’ work each day and working from home instead. I am sure I’m not alone in saying that balancing work and home life has been without its hiccups!
A hospice environment, where ever that may be, is always welcoming, but the support I receive from John Taylor Hospice is immense. I cannot be more proud to admit that I work here, as the hospice is like a second home, with my colleagues like extended family. I cannot wait to be able to return to normal duties, and seeing everyone again, but in the meantime, stay safe everyone.