Dr Cathy Gleeson works at St Catherine’s Hospice in Crawley, caring for terminally ill people on the hospice wards. As restrictions slowly start to ease, she shares her reflections of what it’s been like caring for people in the community throughout this pandemic.
I was asked how coronavirus has impacted on the care we offer local people at the hospice. Initially I thought about how difficult it’s been, and continues to be, to work from behind a mask, covered in a plastic apron and gloves.
It’s quieter at the hospice because we haven’t got so many people working here at the moment – they’re mainly at home – and there’s not such a hustle and bustle. We usually have lots of visitors coming and going; complementary therapists and other volunteers, external visitors, PAT (Pets As Therapy) dog, all that sort of thing, and we’ve had to cut back. But then I thought, actually, that sounds a bit negative, because in so many ways what we do has stayed exactly the same.
We’re still admitting people from home at times when they really need help, care and support. We’re allowing them to have visitors, albeit in PPE for their safety, and in terms of what I do, and what our nurses do, really our roles haven’t changed.
We’re still here to listen to people, to try and sort out their problems, and to do the very best we can as doctors and nurses, working with our wider clinical team to support people when they need us.
If I think about the concerns that patients currently have, they’re very similar to what they always have been. Sadly, Covid-19 has added a complicated dimension for many patients and their families in terms of more worries and more tests, but the important things – like someone being comfortable, feeling secure and looked after, and working out how we can continue to support them and their family to the best we can, that’s all stayed the same.
Even if I feel strange at times, talking from behind a mask and worrying about whether people can hear me and whether they feel that I’m doing my best to be empathic and caring, I know they do feel that because they tell me.
Indeed, sometimes we manage to laugh about it all – I was talking to one gentleman, apologising for the strange kit we all had to wear and said that I hoped he could see from my eyes that I was smiling – he laughed and winked at me in response.
We still want to do the best we can to make life as good as it can be for those who have limited time. I find these moments hugely reassuring, and I hope you will too.
For more information visit St Catherine’s Hospice