Sheila Dormer, 59, has been working as a Nursing Assistant for St Clare’s Hospice at Home team in Essex. Here she shares how she’s adapted to working on the frontline during the coronavirus outbreak.
It’s been challenging at times, but we are all doing our best in these difficult circumstances. There have been definite highs, and of course some lows, but we are just out there doing the best we can. The whole situation has brought us even closer together as a team. We all feel like we are in this together – we are riding the storm, and waiting for the rainbow.
We have made a lot of changes to our working practices that are all about putting safety first at all times. We have virtual handover meetings from our own homes, travel individually to patients’ houses, and are of course wearing appropriate PPE.
The PPE has been quite a change. We are wearing face masks, goggles and full length gowns – which we are not used to. It can be a bit daunting and strange for patients and their families when we turn up at the door completely gowned up with our faces covered.
It’s difficult because before we might have offered a family member a hug or given them a reassuring touch, but now we can’t do that. It is hard when they cannot even see us smiling at them behind the mask – but I think they can see we are smiling through our eyes. We are just reassuring them as best that we can, and supporting them as much as possible.
It has really made me value my role as a Hospice at Home nursing assistant. Knowing that I can still be with patients at the end of their life, and support them, is a huge thing for me. I can still hold their hands – even with PPE on – and give them that comfort. Quite often you are the last person that is with them, and knowing that I can be with people at the end of their life is a privilege.
There has been a lot of kindness during this whole situation. It has been wonderful to see. I got choked up one day as I was leaving a patient’s house with a colleague, when one of their neighbours – a young mother with her three kids – came out to stand on her doorstep as we left. She said to her children ‘let’s clap for our nurses’ and then the four of them applauded us as we walked back to our cars.
Let’s hope that all of this makes for a kinder world in the long run. There has been lots of sadness and heartbreak – but also lots of acts of kindness. Communities are coming together, and people are looking out for their neighbours now. Hopefully this change in outlook sticks around, long after this virus is gone. Looking out for each other and being neighbourly is something we should hold on to.
For more information visit St Clare Hospice