Working on the front line at Whitby Hospital

Published: 23 April 2020

It’s a challenging time for all. And while we are aware that every NHS staff members’ day-to-day routine has changed in light of the COVID-19 crisis, the impact on those on the front lines is unprecedented.

We spoke to Kathy Davies, Nursing In-Patient Ward Manager at Whitby Hospital, about how the outbreak has affected the ward staff, how they’re coping and what keeps them going during tough times.

 

How are you and your team handling the COVID-19 crisis?

My team are handling it brilliantly. It’s tough when a lot of our staff members need to self-isolate at home, adding extra pressure to the team, but everyone is demonstrating absolute flexibility and stepping up remarkably well.

Plans change very quickly and I’m really pleased with how everyone has adapted to these new ways of working.

How has the outbreak affected your day to day tasks?

Our day to day routines are affected markedly. We are now wearing full PPE – that includes masks, visors and aprons – which is especially challenging as it’s hard to breathe or feel comfortable. It’s also extremely time consuming, you have to remove and put them on in a specific way and wash your hands many times in between the steps. It can be really tiring, but we are feeling grateful that we have a good supply and are able to protect ourselves.

It’s pretty much all hands on deck with clinical care at the moment. As always, we are prioritising patient care and needs above our own, and we are doing our best to make people smile as much as we can. It’s extremely difficult to communicate when wearing all of this protective clothing – patients cannot see our emotions on our face and we have to limit therapeutic touch – it must be quite unsettling for them. But we are doing our utmost to keep them comfortable and supported.

We’re also social distancing as much as we can with our colleagues, which means that quite often it can be challenging not to hug or touch a colleague when you want to provide them with reassurance. Ultimately, we are getting through it with regular check-ins and offloading sessions, which are in place to support staff mental health and wellbeing.

 

What would you say you have learned so far, from this experience?

I think one thing I have realised is that I wish people were more aware of the good things that are happening at the moment, too.

There may be a sense that no one is surviving this crisis, but that is not how I have experienced it. We have a number of elderly and vulnerable patients with existing health conditions who have recovered really well from this. On the other hand, I also know of a lot of people who have tested positive but have not been very unwell at all. It’s important to look at all of the data and also pay attention to the positives during a time like this.

 

Do you feel like your staff are learning a lot from this experience, too?

Of course, so much changes every day. We are constantly learning.

But I have to say, my staff are so resilient and despite their anxieties or worries, I am so proud of how the team has stuck together and supported one another. Everyone has families at home who they need to worry about, but they still show up and deliver excellent patient care, even in times of high stress.

It has made me realise that, as a team leader, it’s more important than ever to be thoughtful and reassuring. There’s no hiding that this is a scary situation and it’s important to acknowledge that and do what we can to support one another.

 

“My advice is to take it one day at a time. Focus on today and get through it as best as you can.”

 

Also, it might sound strange, but many of us feel lucky that we get to go out to work ‘as normal’ and don’t have to stay at home. Self-isolation can be equally difficult for some people; after all, it’s human nature to socialise. We are grateful we get to come into work, have conversations and see other people. It helps us to focus on these small joys and silver linings.

 

What helps you along the way?

We get by with a good sense of humour. I think it’s vital in a clinical care environment to be able to break from intensity with a laugh or smile, not only to reassure your staff and patients, but also to make light in dark situations.

I’d also like to take this opportunity to thank the amazing local communities and organisations, our Trust and NHS charities for all of the donations we have received over the last few weeks. It makes us feel really appreciated and we are so grateful for everything. It brightens our day.

I think the final think I would say is, if you are out there in the community and you need care, we are here. You might not be able to see our familiar faces or give us a hug, but we are still here, as normal, and we are working hard to keep you safe.

 

Stay Home, Protect Your NHS, Save Lives.

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