A hospice nurse reflects on a year in lockdown

Mar 23, 2021

Linda Henson on phone6

This week marks a year since lockdown began. Linda Henson, an Advanced Nurse Practitioner at St Catherine’s Hospice in Crawley who works in the community supporting local families, shares what the hospice has learnt through the pandemic.

The reality of the last year is that it's been hard - very hard. I don't think I need to tell you how difficult the daily challenges have been for the NHS, and it’s no different for us at St Catherine's. We’ve had to learn new technology to support new ways of working with our colleagues, including some who are shielding, adapt to a new phone system, and manage concerns around our own safety, and passing COVID-19 to our families.

We often worry about how long this is going to go on for, and how our resilience will cope with it all. But if you think things have felt bad for us during the pandemic, take a moment and think about how terrifying and lonely it is for our patients.

They're often at home as they’re frail and elderly, their families are shielding to keep them safe, and many of them don't have any human contact. They’re worried about going out and some are even frightened of us visiting their homes dressed in PPE.

Making a difference

We’re finding our phone calls are becoming much longer because for some people we’re the first person they've heard from in quite some time, and they’re just so glad to hear a human voice.

But despite these challenges, we’re local people’s link to support, and a link for their families. COVID-19 has brought difficulties for everyone, but there are many great stories of the times we’ve made a difference.

There was the lady who was discharged from hospital as she wanted to die at home. Her family really struggled to think how they were going to look after her, but our Practical Care Team organised some night sits to help them. She died a week later at home, much to the family's happiness because they felt they'd achieved her last wish.

In other cases, often just a few reassuring words on the phone from one of our nurses will help to de-stress a family member, or give a mum who is living with terminal illness, the strength to carry on homeschooling.

Adapting to change

At various points during this pandemic, each of us on the team have felt we’re not providing a good enough service or that we're failing in some way. But we're not - we’ve had to change our aspirations and our expectations of care. Our patients have also had to adapt, knowing that it’s likely they’ll get a phone or video call now instead of a visit.

The pandemic has taught us so much. We've learnt that no nurse, doctor, or team can work on their own, and we’ve moved a long way in terms of working as an integrated team at the hospice. We also work closely with our District Nursing colleagues - they are our eyes and ears. On top of that, we work with Primary Care Network teams, made up of lots of different healthcare colleagues, across our entire area. We also continue to support care homes with advice.

We have learned to be more considerate, more tolerant, and kinder to each other because through all this, everybody is trying their best. We’re more thoughtful and reflective about our work supporting our community, but above all, we've learned that we’re human too. We need to know our own limitations and to know when enough is enough. If we seek help, we don’t need to feel guilty about it, or that we’ve failed in any way.

If COVID-19 has shown us anything, it’s that we’re all vulnerable and we can only do our best.   It will pass, and we will come out of this - my hope is that we come out of it stronger and all live life more fully.

More information

Our Frontline is a partnership between Shout, Samaritans, Mind, Hospice UK and The Royal Foundation of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. It offers round-the-clock one-to-one support, by call or text from trained volunteers, plus resources, tips and ideas to look after your mental health.

Hospice UK’s Just ‘B’ Counselling & Trauma helpline.  The service is a free confidential national helpline available 7 days a week from 8am to 8pm on 0300 030 4434, providing bereavement, trauma and emotional support for all NHS, care sector staff and emergency service workers.

  • Call the ‘Just B’ Counselling & Trauma helpline on 0300 030 4434
  • Visit the Our Frontline site

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