My experience: St John Ambulance volunteer at UHP

There are lots of people from different organisations who make up the extended #1BigTeam at University Hospitals Plymouth (UHP). Abby Williams is an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT), trainer and assessor who has been part of St John Ambulance for nearly three years. St John Ambulance volunteers have been helping out at UHP since July this year supporting the Emergency Department at Derriford Hospital and helping to transfer patients.

Abby Williams volunteering at UHP for St John Ambulance

“I joined St John Ambulance while I was at university studying to become a teacher. I love volunteering and being able to help people and I understand how important it is to know first aid. St John Ambulance does all of the above. Like most people at St John Ambulance I joined as a first aider and progressed through the roles to EMT, which means I have a wider scope of practices and can now crew ambulances through St John Ambulance. I also work with the training team, which brings my love of teaching and first aid together. Recently, along with a colleague, we’ve been busy training a new course to allow members to volunteer in hospital. This is where my experience at UHP comes in handy.

“Normally at this time of year, I would be offering first aid support at large events. Since lockdown these have obviously all been cancelled, which has been really odd. COVID-19 has meant that we have been able to support the NHS by going into hospitals, like Derriford, which has been an amazing experience. 

“When we are doing a shift at Derriford, we arrive and introduce ourselves to the Nurse in Charge, saying hello to everyone else on the way. Once they know we are there we have a look and see if there is anything we can do straight away such as any call bells going off. We are able to offer a huge range of skills such as observations, personal care, providing tea and coffee. We also support transfers to other parts of the hospital. One of the most important things we do is give time to the patients. The Emergency Department gets really busy and there is always loads to do. We are happy to spend time talking to the patients, which is wonderful. No two days are the same and this keeps us on our toes! 

“Outside of volunteering for St John Ambulance (most members of St John Ambulance are volunteers and hold full-time jobs) I am a primary school teacher and work for a local charity that helps special children. I like to keep busy, however, and during the summer holidays most of my time has been spent volunteering with St John Ambulance and supporting the NHS.

“The role has certainly changed over recent time, but it has allowed us a more diverse experience and I’ve learnt loads about medical terminology and been able to enhance my skills. It’s a change being stood in a hot Emergency Department rather than a field when it’s pouring down with rain! 

“The experience of working in the Emergency Department has been brilliant. I’ve learnt so much and have enjoyed every minute whether it be putting skills into practice or simply having a chat with a patient. The Emergency Department staff do an incredible job and have been so welcoming and made us feel at home. 

“The diversity of the role is certainly one of the best bits. I also love the fact that even when the Emergency Department is really busy, we are able to spend the time talking to patients, reassuring them and making their time in the Emergency Department that little bit better. 

“For me, as a teacher, school is starting in September so the time I am able to give will be reduced. I hope to be able to do a few shifts on the weekend. I’ll also continue to train our members to enable them to support the NHS in hospitals and ensure they are ready for events when they start again.”

“Since reopening we have successfully transplanted 10 patients across our region”

The Southwest Transplant Centre (SWTC) is a regional centre which offers a service for kidney patients across Plymouth, Cornwall and the South of Exeter. We provide both a deceased and living donor programme and currently follow up approximately 400 patients who have been transplanted. National statistics show we have one of the lowest waiting times in the country with most patients waiting around 18 months before receiving a kidney transplant.

COVID -19 presented the centre with many challenges; intensive care beds normally used to care for our donors were potentially needed for vulnerable patients requiring specialist treatment as a result of COVID-19. In addition newly transplanted patients who are given a high level of immunosuppression were extremely vulnerable if exposed to the virus.

In April following extensive discussions with other centres, our own referring centres and NHS Blood and Transplant we made the decision to temporarily close our programme in the best interest of our patients.

Two months later we began to tentatively re open the programme, activating patients back onto the transplant waiting list in phases with national guidance. Under the direction of Dr Imran Saif Director for Transplantation, the medical, surgical, immunology and nursing staff have worked incredibly hard to ensure the programme was reopened taking into consideration the safety of the patient.  The transplant waiting list has been growing week by week and since reopening we have successfully transplanted 10 patients across our region which is an incredible achievement for all those involved in the programme and for those patients returning home with a new transplant and the prospect of not returning to or starting dialysis.

This has been a combined effort from many different services across the hospital, the renal unit (Mayflower ward) and support from the Trust management has ensured a safe environment for patients returning to the ward following surgery. Other services such as microbiology have been working hard in the background to swab patients and staff both routinely and in emergency situations to minimise the risk of infection from the virus. The support of the theatre and radiology departments has ensured the timely assessment and transplantation of patients. 

Linda Boorer, Lead for Transplantation, would like to thank the on call team in conjunction with the immunology team in maintaining  the on call rota during this period,  still taking potential screening offers which although did not directly affect patients in our region they did benefit patients  listed in other centres Also the transplant team have pro-actively managed both the suspension and re-activation of recipients in a short space of time and provided reassurance and information to anxious patients and their families.

Patient, Trudy Glasson said: I was sitting in the sunshine sipping a glass of white wine when I got the call. It was Wednesday, 29th July at 5.30pm.  Owing to Covid19, the transplant list had been suspended. I had been reinstated on the newly opened list just two days beforehand.  A rush of excitement and tears of joy ensued.  I had been waiting for this call for almost three years owing to antibody issues.

“Arriving at the Mayflower Ward, firstly I was tested for Covid19.  I am so grateful to the team who operated on me and everyone who continues to take care of me post-op.  The high levels of attentive care surely must be the best and is administered in the most testing of Covid times.  In the early days I had several clinical interventions daily, where Covid regulations were strictly adhered to throughout.  What more could I ask for?  In these dark Coronavirus days, to date I am one of 10 patients at Mayflower who unexpectedly has been given this exceptional life enhancing opportunity.”

Patient, Clive Sandercock and his wife Julie have also shared their feedback of being able to have telephone appointments during the COVID period:

“For us it is a 3 hour round journey to attend Derriford plus our time in the hospital,” said Julie. “It has worked really well Clive having his bloods done at home by our District Nurse and then we get them taken to Launceston and then onto Derriford.  A weekly appointment is then made for a call from one of the Renal Team to discuss the bloods and alter medications if necessary. This has obviously cut down on the stress of us having to attend the hospital weekly for several months. We must stress that the Renal Team have been excellent throughout this difficult time and someone is always available to speak to should we have any problems.

“We think this is the way forward to cut patients having to attend hospital for appointments that can be dealt with by telephone.  We certainly are happy if this continues. We would also like to thank everyone in the Renal Unit for your care and support throughout.”

If you would like to know more about transplantation in your local area please visithttps://www.odt.nhs.uk/transplantation/kidney/kidney-transplant-units/

If you are interested in living donation please contact either Gemma McCullough or Philip Isaac the Living Donor Coordinators on 01752 439955

My COVID experience: Unwitting Warriors

2020 as a third-year student nurse has been a roller coaster, the kind that throws you about, bruises your ears, pretends to stop and then the person controlling it sends you on another relentless loop. Anyone that’s been on the mine train on a quiet day at Alton Towers will understand.

We went into lockdown with some vague rumours that there would be an extended paid placement or early graduation, but nobody really knew and anyone we asked was equally none the wiser. So we sat in limbo knowing only that we weren’t going to finish as normal. Then one day while watching the soap opera that was the Government’s daily update, it was announced that 18,000 third year student nurses were ready to deploy. We weren’t. We were sat on the sofa in our PJs wondering if chocolate chip cookies and a glass of milk would meet the tea time nutritional requirements of our children.

So, a few weeks, some rather dodgy TikToks and some hastily scheduled employment checks later we were off out in the wild. Not a nurse or a student but an “Aspirant Nurse”. That title lasted as long as it took us to realise that nobody knew what it was and as we really didn’t know either we just went back to saying “student”.

I was lucky enough to be assigned Braunton ward in the red zone. I say lucky because actually if I’m going to have my life turned upside down by a brand-new disease, I want to meet that disease head on. Plus, I’m also really risk adverse and wanted all the PPE so deemed Braunton to be the safest place in the hospital. Turns out most of Team Covid had similar rationale and I found my people.

Not without some nerves (read “bricking it”) I went for my first shift in “The Red Zone”.  With the first goal of locating the changing room, appropriate size scrubs and making it back to the ward completed (thank you fellow student for showing me) I began to feel a little better.  And so my Covid, not- quite-nursing journey began.

I can honestly say that I’ve never met a more welcoming group of staff. “Are you here for the shift? We’re so pleased to have you.” Was a phrase that was often used, not just for me but for everyone on the team. As a newly formed team I soon found out that people were meeting people for the first time everyday and so it was actually easy to fit in and not be ‘the new girl’, while actually being the new girl. Working in full PPE is an experience. What I hadn’t considered before donning for the first time was that I’m actually quite claustrophobic, so that was an interesting internal chat to myself, thankfully I won that war and didn’t run crying from the ward in fear of someone putting a visor on me. As an aside, I can now go snorkelling because covid PPE cured me of the fear of the mask.  

What also struck me is the levelling capacity of scrubs. Team Covid really was a team, one working towards the same agenda of keeping each other safe and doing the best for our patients. We had roles to fulfil but the hierarchy was essentially gone because everybody’s job was important, they always are, but if you don’t know if you’re talking to consultants or house keeping staff it opens the ground for communication, plus everyone has the same inhospitable working conditions, “It’s too hot” and “I need a wee” being the two most used phrases.

A short blog isn’t enough to express my student experience of Covid. But I’ll finish by saying I’ve made some amazing friends. I’ve had shifts that I’ve laughed until I cried, as well as shifts at the other end of the happiness spectrum. I genuinely can’t think of a better introduction to my nursing career. To my fellow 2020 graduates……we’ve got this.

My experience: Working from home was like being alone in a storm, but now I have the right support in place

Ria

Ria George has been working from home since March as part of the Operational Resourcing team

Like so many others I began working from home in March once the government announced a national lockdown.

It all seemed very surreal. Since our return from Christmas and New Year leave our office had been watching the unfolding disaster from China and monitoring the daily increase in infections. We discussed how terrible it all was, but not really acknowledging the impact it may have on us in the UK. As the days progressed and things got steadily worse with outbreaks spreading, instead of the light-hearted chit-chat in the office there was the realisation that this was going to affect us and thoughts soon turned to how were we going to cope and navigate through this.

Throughout February and the beginning of March, our team (Operational Resourcing) were busy getting things in place for when things got real. Adding additional absence reasons for national reporting and monitoring, additional training and support for staff, manning the Sickness Hub and so on. Every evening watching the 5pm government update from our mobiles in the office wondering what the impact was going to be and how we could be ready to react.

By mid-March the majority of the floor had started to work from home already and the once bustling office was already eerily quiet with fewer and fewer staff in every day. We had been getting things in place in order for the team to work from home and still provide the service we needed to, then the announcement came about lockdown. The open-plan office environment disappeared and was replaced by my laptop and a spare monitor I borrowed from my other half set up on a camping table in my lounge.

The first few days were exciting, this was a different experience and it was so nice not to worry about the traffic and finding a parking space or deciding what to take in for lunch. Excitement soon turned into a feeling of anxiety, pressure, stress and worry. There was so much work to do it was very difficult to switch off and walk away.

I found myself often working past my normal office hours into the late night, desperate to get things done. But the longer I worked the more and more work kept coming. I would clear one email and it would be replaced by five more, it was so demoralising. With the pandemic getting worse, I couldn’t sleep through worry about work outstanding and about friends, family and colleagues . I felt lost and that everything was out of my control. Not only was I trying to navigate my own thoughts and feelings while trying to work but I also had the kids to reassure and support with their worries, anxieties, and of course, the dreaded homeschooling. Then there was the dog! Wanting to be walked and played with at every opportunity just because we were all suddenly home.

Even though I am part of a team I felt like I was alone in a storm and that we weren’t connected to each other. There was so much going on around I couldn’t see a way out of what felt like hell. Then we started talking, using the MS Teams platform. I soon realised that we were all feeling tired, worried, anxious, exhausted, and that really helped. I wasn’t alone in this, although I couldn’t physically see my colleagues in the office we were still all part of a team, experiencing similar issues. We weren’t in the same boat but we were riding the same storm together! Daily team catch-ups started to happen and this gave us the platform we had been missing to check in on each other and offer the help and support needed from a work point of view and on an emotional level too.

Talking about our own challenges helped me to realise that it’s OK to work my hours and then switch the laptop off and walk away as I would in the office environment. Once I got my head around this, I was then able to support my colleagues in realising we only have one pair of hands and a set amount of time. I realised it is OK to switch off when we need to and to get that balance of work/life in place even while working in a slightly different way.

Now I have the right support in place and I am not so hard on myself, working from home is a more positive experience. Still with kids and pets as a challenge, but more positive on the whole. I have set up my computer and screens (collected from the office) correctly on the dining room table so I am ergonomically safe. I am more productive and find myself achieving more things in my working hours than I would in the open plan office.

Instead of being worried and anxious about how we move forward and emerge stronger, I am excited about what changes the future might hold and, based on our experiences and what we’ve learnt over the past few months, the opportunities that await.

– Ria George

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 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-19 Experience: Alison Owen

I am a nurse at UHP and I have anxiety.

Blog stock image

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).

 

 

My WFH experience: Mechelle Rowe

My WFH experience: Mechelle Rowe

Blog1

I started working from home in March along with hundreds of other staff, with just a laptop at the dining room table.

I live with chronic pain, so I thought working from home would be really beneficial.  Which it is, but sitting on a dining room chair for  nine hours a day started to take its toll.  I took for granted walking up the corridor, catching up with colleagues, moving around often which really helped with my pain management.

At the beginning I really felt I wasn’t making a difference, when my friends and colleagues were working on the frontline.

I actively looked for ways to help. I spent some time ringing around to patients for Rheumatology changing their onsite appointments to telephone appointments. It was nice to speak to patients, putting their minds at rest that they were still going to be looked after, albeit not face to face.  I also helped HR contacting staff working from home or shielding, along with my manager Jocelyn.  Again, really nice to let staff know that they hadn’t been forgotten about and that the Trust valued them helping keep everyone safe by staying home.

Blog2This was the pick-me-up I needed, along with getting my office chair, a monitor and keyboard.  This has made such a difference to my working life and managing my pain.

I am working harder, with less breaks and I have to be mindful about this to make sure I have a good balance.  I will never complain about having to walk over to the NU building in the rain for a meeting again!

As a team, we work very closely in the office and have worked hard in ensuring this hasn’t been lost whilst working from home.  I have a morning and afternoon catch up with my direct team, we then have a morning catch up with the whole team, all on MS Teams – we try and make these fun, even though we are busy.  Socially, we have also ensured we have kept this up.  We have a quiz night every Friday night via Zoom, which has been great fun, as well as other quizzes throughout the weeks.

I have been so proud of what the IM&T department have done to support the Trust, staff going above and beyond, ensuring that patients can be looked after safely, that Trust staff can still do their day-to-day work either onsite or at home.

Although myself, along with rest of The Digital Transformation Team, have been working from home, some of the team have still been active in the main hospital site:

  • helping the Trust take account of the hardware across the whole of the estate
  • tracking all the phones and updating the directory
  • supporting our clinical staff in training of CPL on the wards
  • supporting moves of departments such as ED Minors over to Nuffield
  • calling our end users to check if their IT calls were still required to support the impact of COVID
  • ensuring our teams across the Trust have everything they needed.

They have undertaken jobs and tasks which they wouldn’t normally do with positivity and modesty.

We have adapted quickly and some of us have had a few wobbles, but we have supported each other amazingly. We have even celebrated birthdays virtually and a lot of thought has gone into trying to make these unique and special for the person receiving their ‘virtual’ birthday card.

I feel incredibly lucky to be part of such a special, caring team.

Thank you.

Mechelle Rowe, IM&T Business Change Manager

IM& T Friday Quiz Night