Me, Covid-19 and Nursing – not nursing!

AliciaWhen I was six, I had to have my tonsils removed. Since that day, I have always wanted to be a nurse. The sister who looked after me had such a kind face and manner, a crisp uniform with a hat and waist buckle belt. She made me feel like she cared, like I was worth her time and I looked up to her. I knew she was who I wanted to be.

Cut to February 2003, I’m starting my training to become an adult trained nurse! This wasn’t easy and it took me longer than I expected to get my Diploma, but when I finally achieved it, I was so proud. I had reached my life-long goal to date and was in for the long haul.

My first five years were spent in adult neuro intensive care. During this time, I cared for a pregnant lady with a brain injury, who went into preterm labour. After a c-section, the neonatal sister brought her new son down to visit whilst she was still sedated and on a ventilator. There was so much equipment on wheels – incubator, ventilator, pumps, you name it – it was there. But the sister was so calm, kind and baby oriented amidst the chaos. I did not know what was happening, but I was fascinated by this small baby nestling up to his mum’s chest to try to breastfeed, mouth wide open. So much so, I asked the sister: “are any jobs going where you work?”

After I finished my four nights with his mum, I visited the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) educator, enquiring about how to get a job. Low and behold a job became available a couple of weeks later and I jumped at the chance. Shortly after I left Neuro ICU, to join the NICU team.

Fast-forward to March 2020. I have completed my special care module, Qualification in Speciality training, mentorship training, joined the transport service and became one of the first of three Enhanced Neonatal Nurse Practitioner’s (ENNP) at the Trust

Then suddenly, Covid-19 starts to appear on the news. At first I thought nothing of it, it’s just a bad case of flu. I have actually had a strain of coronavirus before, and despite making my asthma flare up and landing me a short stint in hospital, I got over it and lived to tell the tale. Why should I be worried? I’m a nurse – I’ve been through worse.

The risks to asthmatics were like nothing we’ve seen.

Then the stories started to flood in. The risks to asthmatics were like nothing we’ve seen. I didn’t want to be a ‘vulnerable person’ but according to the news, the government and risk assessments, that’s exactly what I am.

So now I am at home. Not working as nurse, transport or as an ENNP. Instead I am shielding to protect myself. This hits me hard. Harder than I could possibly imagine, more than any the other issue I’ve have had to deal with. I’ve survived cancer, pregnancy loss, family loss, asthma. But Covid-19 knocks me down in a way I never expected. Since childhood, I have always helped, saved, cared for strangers and loved ones and now I can’t. I’ve got to do what lots of nurse’s struggle to do – care for myself, put myself first. I was not prepared for that.

The guilt was overwhelming and at week six, I crumbled.

Watching the news, reading about it online, hearing it all on the radio as I ‘worked from home’ made me feel guilty – guilty for not being able to help, guilty for not being part of the team (I was asked to return back to adult ITU to prepare and care for the potential patients that would arrive, but I couldn’t), guilty for not being there to support my co-workers, friends and family. The guilt was overwhelming and at week six, I crumbled.

When I participated in the British Association of Perinatal Medicine (BAPM) Covid-19 webinar, my emotions were running wild. I realised I needed support as all this was taking a toll on my mental health. I reached out to my line manager and the NICU Senior Sister, spoke to the mental health Covid-19 support team and I broke down – toxic guilt had taken over and I needed to open my eyes to the truth.

The mental health team were amazing, set me back on track and made me see that I am still a nurse, will always be a nurse – as long as I look after myself. I had to let go of the guilt, I was not working but I was still saving lives and my own. I was not going to become a statistic; I wasn’t going to put the strain on the NHS and pressure on the ITU team and ONE day I will be able to return to my team back on NICU.

I was honest with my manager and NICU sister, a small support group was created with our unit mental health support lead, allowing for others to speak up honestly and freely. The guilt it seems, was felt by us all and we were all adjusting to it differently. But together, we stayed safe, we stayed strong and we are still able to care, nurse and look after those who will need us when we come back.

Hopefully sometime soon, I can be back doing what I love the most.

So, I am at the start of week 15, completed many, many packages of e-learning, written some guidelines, attending meetings, a REaSoN training course, completed rotas, kept myself busy with tasks shared out by my colleagues who are still practicing. I have learned to forgive myself for not ‘nursing’, but I am still a nurse, now with more IT and management skills then before, and hopefully sometime soon, I can be back doing what I love the most.

Covid-19 might always be around, but so will nurses, ENNPs, ANNPs, doctors, physios, cleaners, carers, psychologists, occupational health colleagues, radiographers, managers, the police, the fire officers…the list goes on and on. For we are all part of one massive team, one massive family, always working together, saving lives and our own.

Stay safe,

Alicia Donovan
Enhanced Neonatal Nurse Practitioner

 

Visit the Staff Support Hub here:
https://www.plymouthhospitals.nhs.uk/support-hub

Support hub graphic

 

 

 

My lock down blog: Imogen Paterson

Imogen Paterson

Imogen Paterson, Digital Transformation Team

Like most, lock down started very quickly for me. I remember the office was suddenly very concerned with its progress. We were pulled off the wards and confined to the office. I had a cough so was a COVID suspect (since cleared of all charges thanks to an antibody test). Other members of the team were off sick but I was the first to experiment with working from home. So along with my cough I went home with just a few bits, my laptop and my mouse. Things quickly spiralled and after a brief stint in the NU building all of my colleagues were working from home too.

 

Imogen Paterson Picture2It was a very very strange thing to get used to. Getting up for work and going to the kitchen to sign in. It was very difficult in the beginning to stay focused and to feel like what I was doing was actually needed and making a difference. The daily team catch ups definitely helped in those first few days/weeks and I am still very glad that we still have them. It helped maintain that we were all in this weird new world together. I still miss all their faces and it isn’t quite the same chatting on MS teams but we are getting better.

Sitting at an awkward table with a dining room chair can be a challenge but I do feel very lucky to even have that as so many colleagues have to make do with much worse conditions. I am also very lucky to still have a job and when WFH is getting to me a try and remember that.
Imogen Paterson Picture3
In true Digital Transformation style I have set up my own work board. It is still a work in progress but I am trialling using it to try and give my work days more structure and to see things to look forward too. Plus it’s helping me to remember to put the bins out!

When inspired I try and do a little bit of art. Whether painting, drawing or just colouring in something fun I have printed off. This helps to use a different part of my brain and switch off for a bit.

I have also been keeping a work COVID sort of thing in OneNote. Just noting down things we have done as a team. The weird and wonderful things we have been asked to do for team meetings like picking a song for a team BBQ post COVID or decide what kind of tree we would be and why! It is lovely to look back on some of the things we have been doing as a team to keep sane and silly.

I have been lucky to visit the hospital a few times for some projects which was just brilliant. I was really reluctant to do this to start with and I put it off. I felt very anxious about going in but couldn’t tell you why. But when the team needed volunteers I just offered myself up and I am so glad I did.  Engaging with staff and seeing what’s going on in there has been really great. It helped me keep focused on what I was doing and gave me a break from the kitchen office.

Imogen Paterson Picture4As the hospital starting moving towards a new normal and projects are starting to move towards a more definitive plan I am getting excited about how our team is going to be back helping out. It doesn’t look like this working from home business is going to be going away anytime soon but I feel much better about juggling working from home and also working in the hospital (most of the time).

Imogen Paterson
Digital Transformation Team

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 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

https://uk.pcmag.com/software/62410/get-organized-20-tips-for-working-from-home 

How to work from home: Pro tips from PCWorld’s editors

https://www.pcworld.com/article/3531932/how-to-work-from-home-during-the-coronavirus.html?page=2

Suddenly working at home? We’ve done it for 22 years—and have advice

https://arstechnica.com/staff/2020/03/suddenly-working-at-home-weve-done-it-for-22-years-and-have-advice/

Working from home is ruining your posture. Here’s how to fix it

https://www.wired.co.uk/article/working-from-home-posture-back-pain

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