Anthea Whalley would ordinarily be working as an Education Administrator in the offices of St Luke’s Hospice Plymouth. Instead, she is busy with mops, cleaning cloths and laundry 25 hours a week as part of the hospice’s domestic team, responsible for maintaining the very highest standards of hygiene there.
The reason for the change is COVID-19 and the temporary redeployment of staff to assist teams that are under increased pressure as a result of the pandemic.
Anthea said: “With my usual job currently much quieter, I’m glad to be busy doing something as essential as helping to keep the specialist unit such a clean, tidy and uplifting environment for patients and staff. Everyone has been so welcoming, and it has been lovely putting faces to the names of colleagues I have only ever talked to over the phone or via email.
“My eyes have been opened to just how much our domestic staff do. In a typical shift, I clean the bathrooms and keep them stocked with essential items, mop the ward floors, empty bins and launder patients’ bedding. With many staff working from home, the office spaces are pretty quiet but I clean the staff toilets and the kitchen area. I find it satisfying as I work my way around, and I really enjoy chatting to our patients if they want to talk.
“Like all the other patient-facing staff I wear the necessary PPE. It can get hot and the goggles steam up, but there’s a real sense among us that we’re all in this together. I’m happy to keep doing this for as long as it takes.”
Alongside Anthea is Rachel Brown, who was quick to offer help with domestic duties when it became clear her usual work as a ‘roaming’ manager for the hospice’s charity shops would not be needed for a while. Also rolling up her sleeves is Gifts Engagement Fundraiser Lorraine Clark, who has swapped mornings in her usual office habitat that for the busy hospice kitchen.
With a background that includes running kitchens in pubs and care homes, plus her current business The Twisted Tea Room, Lorraine quickly felt at home alongside catering colleagues Tracey and Lee, where she is – as she puts it – Chief Pot Washer. She is also enjoying serving meals to patients, making time for friendly banter with them along the way.
“I like juggling tasks so I’m very happy putting in shifts before returning to my fundraising role in the afternoon” she said. “I’ve been struck by how everything is made so dignified for our patients, and it feels good to be helping because extra pairs of hands are so needed.”
Retail Area Managers Kerry Hearn and John Saunders are also putting in hours as part of the reception team. Though the clinical environment is far removed from the one that’s their norm, they’re gladly answering the phones, working alongside receptionist Jenny Nicholls to provide that all-important friendly and efficient first point of contact for families calling to check on the condition of their loved ones.
Kerry said: “We’re still busy stocktaking, maintaining online sales and checking all our shops to ensure they’re secure during lockdown, but John and I wanted to step up because in crisis we all have to pull together more than ever.
“Initially, we were a bit apprehensive as we’re out of our comfort zone. We had to quickly get to grips with the phone system and speaking to people who are often, understandably, in a state of high emotion because they can’t be with their loved one in person due to current visiting restrictions. Some of those conversations really stay with you.
There’s no doubt that doing this has made me feel even more passionate about our charity. Being here, you see at first hand the vital difference St Luke’s makes.”
John said: “Helping at reception is like coming full circle. It’s so rewarding to see how our retail income is used, funding such superb care. From the domestic staff to the doctors and nurses, every single person is going above and beyond. It’s a privilege to be alongside them.”
Tracey Holman, Head of HR and Organisational Development, said: “I have always known our staff are great at supporting one another, but the positivity and flexibility they’ve demonstrated over recent weeks has taken this to a whole new level. They should all feel very proud that by stepping forward to provide cover wherever it’s most needed they’re making us an even more resilient organisation in these hugely challenging times. A big thank you to all of them.”
For more information visit St Luke’s Plymouth