Supporting the Covid-19 Pandemic – Return to Nursing

Kate Sanders, Practice Development Facilitator

Well 2020 has certainly not been the year I was planning! Just before Christmas I recruited twelve new Inspire Improvement Fellows who I started working with in January. One of the fellows works in public health, so I knew that Covid-19 was on the horizon then and the public health teams were watching what was happening in Europe and planning for the eventuality of Covid-19 reaching UK shores.

Then in early March I attended and presented at the Commonwealth Nurses and Midwives conference in London. We all adhered to strict hand washing, no physical contact and the hotel had increased its cleaning schedules. I returned home wondering if I had caught it, as I had travelled on a packed train with people coughing all over me. I stayed at home for about a week just in case, but nothing developed; or I may never know if it did! Following this conference and observing what was happening in Europe, hearing about all the rapidly developing escalation plans being put into place by health organisations, and realising that nurses would be too busy looking after people to be released from practice, I decided to postpone the Inspire Improvement workshops planned for 25/26 March. It turns out it was the right decision as the UK government announced we would be going into ‘lockdown’ on the 23 March, two days before the workshops were due to take place.

So unable to carry out my role facilitating the programme, I looked around my local area to see how I could help. I have maintained my NMC registration, but have not worn a uniform in 20 years. But I reasoned that I had skills that I could offer that would be helpful. So I returned to clinical nursing on an honorary contract at my local hospice inpatient unit. I remember the first day walking onto the unit, where everyone was wearing masks and scrubs. It was really difficult to recognise anyone. I felt like a student nurse again, going on placement and trying to adjust to a new area. I also had to reconnect with my clinical nursing skills in palliative care and adapt to working in masks and the communication problems this brings for patients, families and staff alike. However, everyone was very kind and special efforts were given for me to adapt, such as being supernumerary; staff coming in specially to help me with an induction; and a day spent looking at drug competencies and moving and handling refresher. I have had to adjust to the physical side of nursing and being on my feet for far longer than I am used to!. What I have enjoyed the most is really getting to know the patients and their families and listening to their worries and concerns at a really difficult time for everyone involved. I can now draw up a syringe driver without shaking and once again have been able to undertake a variety of skills from providing personal care, administering drugs and helping and supporting families at the end of life.

Now, after eleven weeks, I have returned back to my role at FoNS this week. I am eager to reconnect with the Inspire Improvement Fellows and their teams. We now live in a new world of social distancing for the foreseeable future, which brings with it the challenges of creating positive learning environments and experiences. However, I’m confident that collectively we can co-create a new programme together with the use of technology and tailored to each fellows’ needs. I will remember my time at the hospice and hope that I can take the experience with me into my ongoing future work. Watch this space!

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