My shielding experience: Going from working on the ward to never leaving the house

lisaLisa has worked as a nurse at University Hospitals Plymouth for over 25 years. Due to a medical condition she has been shielding at home since lockdown began. She has been keeping a video diary of her experiences – both professional and personal.

In the short video below, Lisa explains some of the hard realities of shielding, from the boredom and isolation to the fear of eventually having to leave the house – and the risks that entails.

In this longer video, Lisa shares some of her wider experiences of shielding at home and how it has affected her professionally going from working on wards before lockdown to now running clinics through computer screens. She talks about some of her frustrations and missing her patients and colleagues, but also how she has embraced technology to make the best of things.​

My COVID experience – Naomi Lean: COVID Rehab Team – A Coming Together

June 08b

Occupational Therapist, Naomi Lean has shared her experience of being part of a new multidisciplinary team in the face of COVID-19. 

My name is Naomi, I have worked as an Occupational Therapist (OT) at University Hospitals Plymouth (UHP) within Emergency Care (EC) since 2004, during this time I have seen many changes and the therapy team has grown hugely.  I am now lucky to be one of the OT team leads for this area and I love the work that I do.  I have often thought that I could not work anywhere else, but I was about to be proven wrong.

At the beginning of March the hospital started to prepare for receiving and caring for COVID patients.  I have never seen so much change in such a short space of time with everyone working so hard to make it all happen.  We started to see patients arriving at UHP who tested positive for COVID and anxieties become heightened about the challenges ahead, however staff constantly amazed me with their focus and determination to do their best for their patients.

Once my team seemed settled in its new COVID routines I turned to the main OT department to ask if they needed any additional support.  This is when I started to work as part of the COVID Rehab Team.

From the very first day it soon became clear that the team I had joined was one of passion and inclusion with bundles of support.  They were a team led by the desire to get their patients stronger, more independent and more able so they could leave hospital and enjoy life again.  No one was afraid to think outside the box and try different approaches to provide the best outcomes possible.

It very soon became clear that more staff were needed.  Seeing patients took longer, their needs were different, the community services to support patients upon returning home were not available. There was little to no rehabilitation available in the community and in a roundabout way this helped to alter and shape a new and different way or working – a way in which we would not normally have had the capacity to try.

It is at times like this that you start to realise the value in working in different roles throughout your career.  I may not have worked on the wards for 16 years but working in Emergency Care meant that I was used to seeing a wide range of patients with a huge variety of conditions.  I also started to pull on skills I learned through working in Health Care of the Elderly, Orthopaedics, Vascular, Amputees, Palliative Care and Hand Trauma.  I was seeing patient’s young and old, some delirious, some highly anxious, some bed bound, the list goes on…

Within the team were highly skilled physiotherapists who were amazing to work alongside.  It was with the confidence of working in this team that I starting working in ICU.  On my first day I met two patients and I was nervous, if you could have seen my eyes under the PPE they were wide open – trying to absorb this strange environment.  The machines, the tubes, the patients – so depleted, so dependant.  It could have all been too much, but oh my, the staff! Their skills, their calmness, their openness to the provision of therapy for patients was amazing.  The patients – the trust they put in everyone, having everything done for them, allowing us to move them, tilt them, stand them and trusting that they would still be able to breathe.  It was within this team that we were able to identify ways of working to compliment the environment, start upper limb rehab through basic functional tasks, help reduce the effects of delirium, start cognitive rehab, enable patients to go out into the fresh air in the therapy garden.  From ICU I was able to see patients step down onto the wards and continue to work with them to regain strength, confidence, independence and achieve goals. The next step for our patients was the biggest milestone of all – to be able to go home!  The feeling of seeing patients who were so ill, who had needed so much care walking out of the hospital, to be greeted by loved ones and head home is one that I will never forget.  My feelings were mixed with huge pride for the patient in what they had achieved through hard work and determination, and huge admiration for the team of skilled professionals that surrounded me.

I started to wonder, what if we could do this normally, without COVID.  What if we had the staff to provide acute rehab in the hospital to give patients the best opportunity to recover and remain strong and independent? Having a rehab ethos from the moment they enter the hospital – whether they stay four hours or four weeks, the impact could only be positive for the patients and the Trust.  I appreciate that not all patients have had a success story.  It has not been the case for all of them, some of our patients were so frail and so depleted by the virus that it has been too much for them to recover and they now need more care despite theirs and our best efforts.

So this is where I now find myself.  With a new passion for rehabilitation! I will always remember the words said to me on one of my first days in the COVID Therapy team. Two of the physios Jude and Susie “We’ll make a rehab OT out of you yet” and by hook and by crook they did! Don’t get me wrong, I still love EC but I would also love to be able to say with confidence to my patients that they will be getting rehabilitation when they need it most.  COVID has weirdly provided us with the opportunity to do this – with no community services to fall upon and the right team it works, and it works well!

My working from home experience: Sophie Hall

Sophie HallThe weeks before lock down were busy for us as a team working in the Hospital. We were preparing for a new system to go live on wards and the excitement was stronger than ever.  Me and my colleague were running from ward to ward to gather as much information as we could, until that lunchtime we were told we could no longer visit the wards to reduce the amount of traffic coming in and out. At this moment we become ‘lost’, our tasks which needed to be completed involved us speaking to staff on the wards which we could no longer do.  As the days went on more and more of my colleagues were either working from home or became ill and were told to stay at home.

I really didn’t want to be at home all day by myself working

My relationship with my partner broke down and I remember speaking to my manager and asking if I could stay in the office as I really didn’t want to be at home all day by myself working and the next day Boris announced lock down.

The struggle for me was not being able to see my Mum and Nan. My Nan is classed as high risk and she lives by herself so to try and keep her positive as well as myself was difficult and still is.

I always thought working from home would be good; no commute, sleep for longer and everything is right where you are but the first few weeks were so difficult. I’ve always seen myself as a shy person, I’d rather sit and observe than be the one to talk but as the days went on I really started to miss the interaction we had with the staff at the Hospital and I learnt a lot about myself that I didn’t know before.

After a few weeks of feeling sorry for myself about the situation I decided to pick myself up. Once the working day was over I constantly thought “what do I do now?”, I regularly went to the gym and it wasn’t until I went a few weeks without it that I realised it helped my mental health as well as my physical. During this time I decided to take up running, I bought all the gear and was challenging myself to run faster or longer each day and I genuinely think if I didn’t push myself to do this that I wouldn’t be as positive as I am now.

I have returned to the office a few times when needed and it has been great to get back to some normality for those few days but when I come back to work from home I remember why I need to and think of the positives that can come out of this. I think in some ways lock down has been a blessing for myself and many others.

We have had a chance to learn about ourselves, start new hobbies and appreciate the little things in life.

I am getting used to working from home, some days are harder than others, it will never be my preferred option and as soon as we can return I will be running to work!

By Sophie Hall
IM&T Business Change Assistant
IM&T Digital Transformation Team

My COVID experience: Roger Gardner and Susie Wolstenholme

June 08b

Data Manager, Roger Gardner and Physiotherapist, Susie Wolstenholme have shared their experience of being part of a new multidisciplinary team in the face of COVID:

Roger GardnerCardiothoracic and Cardiology Data Manager

Whether we like it or not technology is here to stay and in fact COVID-19 has led many of us away from our traditions and forced to adopt new practises. I always favoured an agile approach of designing solutions quickly involving users, doing what’s difficult but achievable. The COVID response recognised the need for this given its urgency.

Putting patients at the centre of projects is so important. I have had the privilege to work with many great clinicians who saw the significance of data in their decision making. Over many years I’ve learnt to be sceptical of data (and I am more than most) you only need see just how important data will be in ending the pandemic. I ask the question where did the data come from and how reliable is it? I never fail to offer my services to ICU as what they ask is considered and valued. They have more data than you can shake a stick (20 GB of live data at any one time) so it’s some task. Whilst our ability to record data has eased (I remember Psion organisers and dBase and the pain that came with them) analysing very large amounts of data has become a new challenge. We often have too much data to write a simple query and we have to be selective about what we choose to examine.

I’ve done two things to support ICU at this time. Firstly I did an amalgamation (massive data dump) of patient variables/ventilation data for COVID patients from the back end of the main ICU database, Innovian. This system records lots of data at various intervals. We were eventually able to ‘bin’ the data for useful analysis and generate SOFA scores (severity of illness scores) for COVID patients during points in their stay, the principle being to identify effective treatments – watch this space. Many thanks to Rob Jackson, Sergei Dudnikov and Debbie Webster for their patience in helping me get the data right. It took four weeks of iteration.

Data whilst in ICU is one thing, patients hopefully go back to general wards and then into the community for their ongoing care. To this end the ICU team and I also developed a physiotherapy database that recorded key interventions and wellness, producing a summary at the end of their stay. It collated data and drafted an email physios could easily share with community colleagues so that care could be continued in an informative and joined up manner.

These projects really demonstrate that clinicians need the right cut of data to assist their treatments and that as data specialists we should be flexible enough to transform data into what is useful and that means learning enough clinical information to assimilate data and to challenge requirements. You could call that effective data mining. Learning from data is a journey and a privilege given how much more difficult it must have been in previous times such as 1918 flu pandemic.

 

Susie Wolstenholme – Physiotherapist

Following a recent short deployment to Samoa over Christmas 2019 with UKEMT (Emergency Medical Team) to support their healthcare system during a measles pandemic, when I was asked to support the set up of a COVID rehabilitation team I was quite happy to do so.  At no point was I ever worried about my health, merely that of others.

As a physiotherapist with primarily neurological and critical knowledge, until my experience in Samoa, I would probably have shied away from a medical caseload but during that time I treated every type of patient from babies to adult amputees, so felt far more confident that my skills were transferable to COVID.

Starting on ITU in full PPE was daunting but after the first session I quickly realised it was no different except a little warmer! The opportunity to treat patients throughout their inpatient journey with a proper seven day service has been amazing.

Providing patients with interesting and more effective rehab including circuits, group work, and in the rehab garden has had excellent engagement and addressed both physical and emotional wellbeing. The outcomes in particular for post ITU patients say it all really and as a team we are so proud to say that all step down patients have walked out of hospital and gone straight home!

Working with other therapists from different departments and specialities has been incredibly rewarding and we have all learnt so much from each other. In particular OT’s having the capacity to provide rehab rather than just discharge planning has been invaluable.

Despite it being a challenging time with rapidly changing processes, my overriding feeling of the period has been incredibly positive as a time where we were able to provide a service that we would like to be the norm. I only hope that now we have deescalated and people have returned to their normal roles, that the joint working and more intensive rehabilitation is able to continue across specialities recognising everyone’s ‘Right to Rehab’.

 

 

My COVID experience: Helen Totton and Paul Minty

June 08bOccupational Therapist, Helen Totton and Physiotherapist, Paul Minty have shared their experience of being part of a new multidisciplinary team in the face of COVID-19:

Helen Totton – Occupational Therapist

When I was asked to work within the COVID team at first I had anxieties about what to expect and how to keep myself safe.  It felt like starting a new job!  My worries were alleviated quickly; the COVID team were so welcoming and wanted to work as a therapies team not as individual professions.  Any time I spent on the ‘red’ wards I actually felt reassured by the PPE we had to wear, it felt very secure.  I was very grateful that I did not have to wear it all day like the nurses had to as it was so hot but felt very protective.  The ‘donning’ and ‘doffing’ was very time consuming and I was always aware of trying to ensure I saw as many patients as possible while I had ‘donned’.

This experience has provided me with opportunities to learn from colleagues, especially as the team developed their skills to appropriately support and rehabilitate the patients recovering from COVID.  My own skills regarding my approach to initial assessments had to adjust due not being able to take paperwork in/out of the ‘red/amber’ zones.  Therefore not only did I need to remember all points to assess but also the answers provided.   Working within the COVID team has been, I feel, a valuable experience in developing my knowledge and skills, however there is still so much I need to learn!  This team has provided us an opportunity to, in my opinion, demonstrate the need for therapy interventions within a patient’s journey along with the need for MDT working to facilitate safe and timely discharges and appropriate follow-up at home.  It has been a privilege to be a part of this incredible team.

Paul Minty – Physiotherapist

My name is Paul Minty and I am a physiotherapist who works in MSK outpatients and in pain management at Rowan House. I was redeployed to the COVID-19 Rehab team in early April. Initially, this was very a challenging time as I had not been on a ward for nearly two years. Luckily, a super multidisciplinary team was being formed so there were others in the same boat as me which is always helpful.

To begin with the patients were either too ill or feeling rough due to fighting the virus, which made it difficult for me. I was there to get people up, moving and back on their feet which was the last thing some patients wanted to do. As time went on and patients felt better, they were able to engage more with physiotherapy and I was able to utilise more of my skills to get people moving.

On the ward we set up a gym space where we were able to take patients to work hard for 30-40 minutes helping them regain their strength and fitness to be able to return home. This made the rehab much more enjoyable despite being in full PPE which made this type of work very hot.  Alongside this we regularly took patients out to the secret rehab garden to get some exercise outside in the sunlight and fresh air.

Ironically, during the horror of the COVID-19 crisis the care that we were able to provide patients with was amazing compared to my experience as an inpatient physiotherapist earlier in my career. We worked in an innovative way as a large multidisciplinary team, allowing us to give the best possible care we could. We had the required amount of time and resources to do our job better than ever which was reflected by our ability to get patients up, out of hospital and back home to their families, not only surviving COVID-19, but thriving.

 

My Covid experience: Working in a new MDT

June 08b

Macmillan Specialist Speech & Language Therapist, Chloe Jarvis and Occupational Therapist, Helen Ashbourne-Cordiner have shared their experience of being part of a new multidisciplinary team in the face of COVID-19:

Chloe Jarvis: Speech & Language Therapist

Usually I am the Macmillan Specialist Speech & Language Therapist (SLT) for head and neck cancer, however as more COVID cases started being admitted I volunteered to take the lead for managing the communication and swallowing needs of those patients in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU). It was challenging balancing both roles, as I have no cover for my usual job, but I loved being part of the rehabilitation MDT. Speech & language therapists play such an important part in a patient’s recovery and it’s been great to be able to highlight that whilst working so closely with other professions. Initially it was daunting putting on all the PPE and entering ICU for the first time, but gradually I got used to it and it just became a normal part of my working life. I also didn’t really know what to expect from these patients and how they would present during assessment. It’s been a huge learning curve but I’m pleased that I’ve been able to support people to eat, drink and speak again following such a major illness.

Now that things are moving back to ‘new normal’, I’ve had to take a step back to support my regular patients. It will be interesting to see how COVID has impacted on cancer patients, as I expect some people may have ignored symptoms as they didn’t want to come into hospital. That will be the next challenge, but we may not see the true impact for some time.

Helen Ashbourne-Cordiner: Occupational Therapist

Initially I was apprehensive about joining the team and working on the Covid wards as I was unsure about what to expect. However I found it to be a fantastic experience. The team worked in a very MDT focused way, where you felt that there was a true collaboration between professionals. It really felt like everyone pulling together, in what was the unknown for all of us.

I think the most rewarding part for me was providing rehab for patients. Usually as an acute OT there is limited capacity to do this. However as part of the Covid rehab team I was able to see patients on multiple occasions and see the progress they were making. It encouraged me to think differently when working with people and be creative in the things I was doing with them. I had never used the rehab garden before and this was such as brilliant resource to have and to be able to take people outside the hospital to be in the fresh air and sunshine made a huge difference to them and their emotional wellbeing. In terms of working with ICU patients it was amazing to see them make such huge steps in their rehab journey, from being unable to walk and care for themselves to walking out of hospital and not requiring any additional support at home.

Although Covid has been a really challenging time I have really valued the experience it has given me in terms of my professional development and working as part of a well-integrated MDT.

My COVID Experience: Jude Fewings

Team Lead for the COVID-19 Respiratory/Rehabilitation and Discharge Team, Jude Fewings has shared the process behind organising a new multidisciplinary team at the beginning of a pandemic. Keep an eye out next week when we will be bringing you the experiences of eight members of the MDT. 

 

June 08b

Towards the end of March as more Covid-19 positive patients were admitted to the Trust and the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) became a ‘Red zone’, it became clear that our first surge of patients was starting.

Wards were moving and mass training started in order to upskill volunteers across the hospital. I was asked if I would move from my day job as the consultant therapist in neurosurgery and establish a team to provide therapy to this patient group. I agreed on the Wednesday and by the Friday we had started.

My vision was clear, to create a suitably staffed, skilled workforce that was multidisciplinary; centrally led, with excellent lines of communication. A seven day respiratory and rehab service that facilitated patient and carer involvement, goal setting and outcome measurement with an integrated step-down discharge service into the community.

From the outset, I was provided with incredible support and flexibility by the Therapies management team, in addition to which we were advised that there were funds available for equipment.

As word went out that a specialist rehab team was being set up, I was inundated with volunteers. I decided fairly quickly that to lead this team in challenging circumstances, I would require a few senior clinical colleagues. Requests to other service lines were granted and the leadership team started to take shape.

To bring my vision to life over the course of the next few days, I worked with the heads of the therapy departments to move staff into the team and create pathways for the Covid-19 patients.

Staff training and psychological support

Training was requested from and provided by the ICU clinical educators. On the 3rd of April, a Friday morning and at 13:00 the initial Covid-19 Respiratory, Rehab and Discharge team commenced operations.

I approached Rachel Clarke and Alan Hassard from Psychology who between them provided short sessions, throughout our three months to assist and maintain the mental health well-being of the team.

Patient Information

A bespoke Covid -19 Rehab booklet for the patients was created using a fusion of original pre-existing patient information and exercise booklet and additional respiratory and psychology information.

Key points for daily efficiency

Communication and high-level standardised care was at the forefront of team.  Attendance at all the white board meetings/ward MDTs.  A daily ‘therapy MDT huddle’ occurred in order to establish numbers of priorities and discharges.

Logistically, care needed to be taken with every patient contact in the red zones. In order not to use PPE un-necessarily, thought regarding what equipment was required, joint working and above all safety went into every Covid positive patient contact.

At our daily therapy MDT we ensured that we co-ordinated our care and joint working, including referrals to our Rehab nurse specialist, SLT and Dietician colleagues.

Use of a WhatsApp group was invaluable to co-ordinate the team quickly and efficiently on a daily basis and for uploading rotas which at the time needed to have the versatility to flex up and down according the numbers of patients in each week and across the weekends.

Infection Control

The hydro pool area became our centre of operations, chosen for its location and also access to showers (every therapist  showered, post work to keep their families safe, if we were required to mix with the green therapy teams then scrubs were changed before) and space to allow social distancing.

The Domestic  team of Teresa, Margaret and Anna who serviced the pool area need mentioning individually. They were the silent, night-time members of the team who due largely to their skills and dedication to keep the areas in Hydro spotless meant that my team were able to stay well and infection free.

Equipment

The Covid budget was made available to the rehab team and the purchases made were carefully considered to be that which after Covid would be used to benefit all patients in the Trust.

I had approved:

  • 40 Hydroflex chairs to enable all patients to sit out in a pressure relieving supportive seating.
  • Cognitive assessments in order to have a wide range for the OTs to use.
  • Hand and ADL equipment to maximise patient independence
  • Parallel bars for the rehab garden to further increase the range of therapy that we can offer outside on different surfaces.
  • Bean bag positioning cushions in a range of sizes and shapes to facilitate Prone (tummy lying) positions for those very breathless patients.
  • A therapy table that can be height adjusted in order to rehabilitate in standing and use your arms for a functional task at the same time.
  • Two Therapy bikes that patients in bed can use to maintain muscle strength and range of movement were rented on a long term lease.
  • Four therapy bikes to use when the patient is sitting in chair were purchased.

All of the above equipment has been used and has had huge importance in contributing to functional gains in our patients.

Data and patient pathways

From the outset, data and outcome measures were of prime importance to be collected.

Patient follow-up on discharge was also of importance to us as a team. It was at this point that we joined forces with the Community Respiratory teams in Plymouth and Cornwall and together created a bespoke follow-up service for patients on discharge. A database was created for collation of the outcome measures, which can now also send the referrals from the acute team to the Community team. A big thanks to Roger on this work.

Team Work

I have nothing but respect for all of my team as we moved through the last three months together. We have had a challenging but enjoyable period of time creating a bespoke rehabilitation service. Their flexibility and can do attitude made my role easy and the assistance given to me by the senior team truly invaluable.

Final words

There is so much more to say and celebrate, so many staff across therapies who although not in the actual Covid therapy team have assisted and been part of the bigger picture that words in a blog just can’t express or cover.

Now with acute cases on the decline and the team de-escalated, we return to our pre-covid areas of work. The learning from the last 3 months has been extensive.

My take home message: Intensive, co-ordinated, borderless MDT rehabilitation has fantastic results for patients and for staff.

My remote working coping strategy

A while ago, we asked for staff’s tips for adjusting to remote working. Read on to find out what we learned.

Contributions from Jason Scott, Enterprise Solutions Architect, IM&T and colleagues across the Trust.

Video calls  

Circulate an agenda in advance.  Help people to prioritise and compile it in advance, not at the tail end of the call.  Allot time to each item and keep to schedule.

Allow time for people to fumble the log-in – send clear instructions in advance and test them. Be patient.

If there are slides or documents, circulate them in advance.  Don’t rely on being able to display them ‘live’. Often bandwidth is insufficient.

Be punctual. Tele-meetings are real meetings.

If people are working from home, and it’s not possible to lock children and the dog in the airing cupboard (!), use a decent headset/earphones with microphone.

The meeting chair should ask people to introduce themselves, and it’s polite to re-introduce yourself before you speak.  

An icebreaker is a good idea. Ask people what they had for breakfast, or send a picture of where they are…

Don’t be an agenda-benda.  Stick to the script and don’t let the meeting drag on.  Keep people engaged by asking for opinions.  

Keep people engaged. If you can hear the sound of a keyboard, it’s a sure sign people are disengaged and doing their Ocado order.

Prevent people talking over each other, make specific time for questions.

Make sure people understand which bit of the meeting they are to contribute to and how. Help them to get their documents lined up.

Keep minutes and action items, circulate them and follow through.  Don’t assume people know what they are doing next.  Demonstrate tele-meetings count.

Video conferencing needs rock-solid wifi. Have a standby, if it drops out.  You’ll want good lighting and if you are using a lap-top, put it up on some books so we are not treated to a view, up your nostrils. 

Make sure there’s nothing embarrassing in the background.

Sit still, it uses less bandwidth.

Avoiding burnout

It is important to have down time. Mind recommends continuing to access nature and sunlight wherever possible. Do exercise, eat well and stay hydrated.

AnxietyUK suggests practising the “Apple” technique to deal with anxiety and worries.

·         Acknowledge: Notice and acknowledge the uncertainty as it comes to mind.

·         Pause: Don’t react as you normally do. Don’t react at all. Pause and breathe.

·         Pull back: Tell yourself this is just the worry talking, and this apparent need for certainty is not helpful and not necessary. It is only a thought or feeling. Don’t believe everything you think. Thoughts are not statements or facts.

·         Let go: Let go of the thought or feeling. It will pass. You don’t have to respond to them. You might imagine them floating away in a bubble or cloud.

·         Explore: Explore the present moment, because right now, in this moment, all is well. Notice your breathing and the sensations of your breathing. Notice the ground beneath you. Look around and notice what you see, what you hear, what you can touch, what you can smell. Right now. Then shift your focus of attention to something else – on what you need to do, on what you were doing before you noticed the worry, or do something else – mindfully with your full attention.

 

Tips from colleagues

My team are keeping in touch and trying to maintain morale and humour, even when working from home. One day we all decided to wear hats for our call, then we found out you could add backgrounds!
Shaun Mann MCIPS
Senior Category Manager – Estates & Facilities

The general atmosphere within the hospital has been one of solidarity and kindness. Everyone is doing their best to provide the same gold-standard level of care and rehabilitation. Our patients and the general public have been hugely supportive; and this makes a big difference. I’m coping with these unprecedented changes by keeping busy, and trying to hang on to as much normality as I can. I’ve been working from home this week, and keeping in touch with colleagues remotely has been really helpful. My family, friends, neighbours and patients are a big source of motivation. Everyone is appreciating each other more, and taking time to pause and reflect. It’s been really important to manage my routine and self-care in order to not burn out during this period. Every time I chat with my friends or family via video call I feel more connected, and that helps me to carry on providing the same high quality therapy to my patients.
Lucy Smith
Speech and Language Therapist

Use WhatsApp Groups
We set up a WhatsApp group to keep in touch with everyday chit chat and work related issues with software and we all try and help as a group. For me personally I am on self-isolation for up to 12 weeks as my mum has issues and I have diabetes. It’s just knowing that even though I am not there in person, I am still being supported by my line manager and feel included. I just have to keep thinking it’s not forever, just a little while.
April Bostock
Pathway Co-Ordinator for Neurology

Keep to the same routine with getting up in the morning and getting ready for work (albeit you may dress differently in the home environment).

Make sure that you have a break at lunchtime.

Use MS Teams to make sure that you are in regular contact with your team and close work peers. Our team has a team brief at 9:00am every morning to go through the work streams and activities for the day with everyone that is working on that day.

Offer one-to-one support to those that you line manage either via MS Teams or the telephone when they need it.

Be prepared for the flexibility around change that is required when working virtually, especially in the current crisis, and support those staff that would generally find this difficult.
Jayne Middleman
Learning and Organisational Development Facilitator/People Development Lead

Our research consultant (Dr Carroll) has organised regular catch-up meetings (at least weekly) – 80% work related 20% general how are you; this has been appreciated for sure and possibly something that others should do.  Also, where possible, she makes zoom video calls rather than telephone calls for that extra keeping in touch. 
Anon

I put on ‘Calm my Dogs’ via Alexa and I found it was so soothing whilst I was working myself. It’s soothing classical music and worked a treat me and the dogs.
Sue Tuft
Personal Assistant to David Edwards

As a Department, IM&T were quite swift on getting our teams split up to maintain resilience as much as we could. Therefore we’ve all been dispersed for quite some time now and have a number of methods for staying connected and keeping a check on the welfare of our people.

We realised that a lot of our teams all work in different ways and, whilst we didn’t want to be too prescriptive about how it’s done, we wanted to ensure that all our managers were checking in on the welfare of their staff during these difficult times. Therefore we encouraged everyone to set up twice daily Teams calls that were purely about checking in and saying hello, not about operational stuff. We asked all our managers to invite their SMT link member, as well as Andy, to these calls, and they dip in and out when they can so that they are being seen by our teams on the ground.

Andy put the feelers out across the whole department and we created a quick spreadsheet to show who was doing what, which allowed us to pick up on areas where some more interaction might be needed. Andy and the SMT then focused their attention on these areas to see what they could do to make sure everyone was taking care of themselves and each other.

In terms of cross-team liaison, we have MS Teams chats within each team across the department, and anyone can send a message into another team’s chat – this is working really well for us as it imitates things like me popping over to service desk to ask a tech question.
Bryonie Brindley
IM&T Business Services Manager

 

Further reading

7 simple tips to tackle working from home

https://www.nhs.uk/oneyou/every-mind-matters/7-simple-tips-to-tackle-working-from-home/

Get Organized: 20 Tips for Working From Home

My experience: Locked Down

My experience: Locked Down

Audrey ButkieneI’ve always considered myself being an extrovert – I love being around people, hearing loud laughter, participating in social gatherings, being busy at work and always rush around. It can be sometimes tiring, but I love even that bit about having a busy lifestyle. I remember one of my last days at work, when me and my mentor Sophie Hall came back rushing to the office after having a brilliant and exciting day on the wards. We kept talking over each other to the rest of our colleagues, probably not making much sense. And I felt so alive that day.

Few days later I felt very ill and had to call in sick. Since then I never returned to our office…

For the next two weeks I stayed at home self isolating and it took me over a week to finally start feeling better. I started working from home—something that I’ve never experienced before. The whole concept felt very strange—how does it even work? I didn’t even have my laptop, I felt completely isolated.

The rest of my team was still working in the hospital, but with the amazing support from my managers and colleagues, I continued to work from home for another two weeks, counting the days when I can finally join my team. And then Boris Johnson announced the lock down (when I was still coming to terms with the school closure)…

I felt slight panic. I was already self-isolating for the past two weeks and now I don’t even know when I am going to leave the house. The life I knew flipped upside down, and it made me feel very anxious. I was supplied everything I need to continue working from home, we started having daily team meetings on MS Teams, I could finally see my team members again! The first day of working from home me and my mentor stayed on a video call all day to make us feel like we’re in the same room again. And it was lovely.

Audrey Picture2The next following days, which turned into weeks, I started to look for positive side of working from home—I was saving money on petrol, parking, I didn’t waste money on buying second lunch almost every day. And it also let me stay in bed extra half an hour each morning. I no longer had to wear uniform, put make up or worry about packing my lunch every evening. Everything I needed was here, in my own home.

Audrey Picture3Two weeks later the novelty of easier working conditions wore off and I started feeling low again. I felt like being in the emotional roller-coaster and craving to get back to normal more than ever. I started to miss getting ready to go work, wearing make-up, feeling the sense of accomplishment when you finish your working day and the most important part—being around people again. It is just not the same when you close your laptop at 4.3o pm and start preparing dinner without taking your time to summarise your day on your way back home. I fully understand why this might not be possible for a long time, but it is important to have hope and feel grateful for having an opportunity to keep working during the lockdown.

So far it’s been 120 days since I am working from home and I keep volunteering for every task that involves going back to the hospital, even if it’s just for few hours. I stopped taking life and work I have for granted, enjoy good and bad days because there will be many of those in the future and they will still be beautiful. And I will be able to deal with every challenge that the future holds.

Stay safe. Keep smiling.

Audrey Butkiene
Business Change Assistant
Digital Transformation Team
IM&T Department

 

 

My COVID-19 Experience: Alison Owen

I am a nurse at UHP and I have anxiety.

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I am a nurse at UHP and I have anxiety. After taking part in a conversation on wellbeing, I was asked to share my experience on accessing mental health services. This subject may be a bit raw for some of you right now, due to your own struggles, or through grief, so I hope this article is of some help, and I apologise if it doesn’t quite hit the mark.

Did you know that nurses are four times more likely to end their own lives? (Office for National Statistics, 2019). Or that between 2011 and 2015, 430 doctors died by suicide? (Kinman and Teoh, 2018). I don’t know the statistics for our other professional and non-clinical colleagues, but I do know 40% of sickness in the NHS is due to stress and mental health, (West, 2019), and I’m sure that number will represent all NHS staff, no matter the job title.

Poor mental health can affect anyone, and it is important we talk about it, and end the stigma associated with mental health conditions.

It scares me to write my story on what is such a public forum, but I am a great believer in talking about mental health. If one person reads this, identifies they or a friend needs help, and then accesses that help, then sharing my experience is worth it.

About two years ago, I began to experience anxiety at work. I’ve always had a bit of social anxiety which I could manage, but this episode was something else and I began to dread coming into work. Looking back I couldn’t tell you the trigger, but I know my workplace was often busy and overwhelming. I worried I was going to make a mistake, I worried I would miss something, and that because of me, someone might die. Every health care professionals worst nightmare. At the beginning of a night shift my friend saw something was wrong, I cried to her for an hour in the toilets. After that shift I had 3 months off work.

So, how did I get better? Luckily I had an incredible support network in my husband and friends. I spoke to my ward manager who was brilliant, and my GP who was beyond understanding. I attended group sessions for anxiety put on by Livewell Southwest. I wrote in a journal everyday. I was resolved to get better, and with a lot of help from other people, I got there. I can assure you it was not easy, but it was better than the alternative.

A year after all this had happened, stories in the news began of a virus in China. It didn’t seem like that much of a big deal at the time but here we are, 6 months later, our worlds have been turned upside down by Covid-19.

I’ve been working in an amber/ red area during this time. It’s an unfamiliar environment, we’re always in PPE, many staff have been redeployed so the team is of mixed abilities and experience. We face a lot of emotions from other people, and we all have our own emotions around the situation and our personal circumstances.

I could feel my anxiety returning again, little tell tale signs, I was getting irrationally angry and I had a constant chest pain that appeared in February and wasn’t going away. Recognising what was happening to me, and not wanting to get back to the point of panic attacks in the staff toilet, I decided to seek help early and accessed a counsellor through The Laura Hyde Foundation.

The charity has recently collaborated with Project 5, a group of professionally accredited counsellors, and I was able to access three free counselling sessions plus a load of other self help materials.

It was really easy to access help, I went to the Laura Hyde Foundation website and on their getting help pages they had a link that said ‘get support.’ I was able to register with Project5 using my NHS email address and then get an appointment the next day.

Speaking to someone really helped me process my emotions on what was going on, which was especially important when due to lockdown, my normal coping mechanisms had been taken away. I was able to understand more about my reactions and find ways to cope with them when I was feeling overwhelmed.

I want you to know that if you are feeling overwhelmed or perhaps just not quite yourself, then help is available for you too. It can feel like the hardest thing in the world, to admit that you’re not coping, but that’s OK, it’s OK to not be OK.

 

Getting Help

To access a counsellor through The Laura Hyde Foundation please visit:
https://laurahydefoundation.org

You can also access help through the UHP Staff Support Hub:
http://www.plymouthhospitals.nhs.uk/covid19-support

There is an NHS support line: 0300 131 7000 between 07:00 and 23:00 each day with a 24/7 text service available by using the number 85258

Livewell South West has a 24/7 helpline at the moment: 01752 434922. Their other services can be found on their website here

For Cornwall based staff please visit:
https://www.cornwallft.nhs.uk/i-need-help-now/

Or the rest of Devon:
https://www.dpt.nhs.uk/i-need-help-now.

 

References

Kinman, G and Teoh, K. (2018). What could make a difference to the mental health of UK doctors? A review of the research evidence. https://www.som.org.uk/sites/som.org.uk/files/LTF_SOM_mental_health_of_doctors.pdf (Accessed 18/6/20).

Office for National Statistics, (2018). Suicide deaths among nurses aged 20 to 64 years, deaths registered in England and Wales between 2011 and 2017. https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/birthsdeathsandmarriages/deaths/adhocs/009209suicidedeathsamongnursesaged20to64yearsdeathsregisteredinenglandandwalesbetween2011and2017 Accessed 14/4/2020.

West, M. (2019). The Kings Fund. The NHS crisis of caring for staff: what do we need to do? https://www.kingsfund.org.uk/blog/2019/03/nhs-crisis-caring (Accessed 18/6/20).