This blog was intended to give insights into what it is like working during this crisis on the frontline. I was going to explain what I see day to day, the stress that healthcare workers are under, the situation with personal protective equipment (PPE), the pressure on intensive care unit (ICU) beds and the ward. But unfortunately it's not that simple...
Going to work for 12 hours, perhaps not having a break, perhaps not peeing for over 8 hours and being put in challenging situations on a daily basis is pretty much the norm for many workers on the frontline ANY day of the year, despite COVID-19.
But now we have the pressure of adhering to guidance that keeps changing, confusion on who to test, who to 'barrier nurse', with lack of PPE in some areas. Staff are frightened. Frightened that they will bring coronavirus home to their families, frightened that they will become ill and frightened of the things they will witness in the coming months.
Currently there is a petition calling for frontline NHS staff to be tested. We would then know who has the infection, keep them isolated so not to infect the vulnerable.
In my hospital it’s taking five days to get a test result back. During those five days, patients are being barrier nursed. Barrier nursing ‘usually’ is a straightforward procedure and one nurse can look after a patient with relative ease. However, when barrier nursing a COVID-19 infected patient who is on non-invasive ventilation or aerosol therapies, it is much more disruptive. It can take two nurses to care for that patient, as ‘donning and doffing’ PPE is time-consuming and risky. The second nurse will act as a ‘runner’, collecting equipment, medication, linen – anything the patient and nurse need.
The nurse will also need to take breaks separately to the rest of the team, leaving them feeling isolated.
I know the Trust I work in has purchased point-of-care testing for coronavirus, but this won’t be up and running for two weeks. After a 12-hour shift, healthcare workers would then shower (if you are lucky), change their clothes and go home. Simple?
No, we are not robots. We are human. We don’t go home, have dinner, have a full night’s sleep and start the next day. We have stuff going on outside work. We carry these stresses with us when we come into work; it affects our ability to ‘do a good job’. Staff are often struggling with outside stressors: divorce, moving house, child care, money and health – mental and physical. These stresses have not gone away since COVID 19 turned up.
There are now new stressors in town which are affecting healthcare workers ability to stay focussed and to ‘do a good job’. These stressors are HUGE.
Yesterday, the Government stated that they would help businesses with ‘what ever is needed’. That’s great but a loan won’t help in the long run.
My husband owns a small business. He is a sculptor and makes small-scale sculptures for the garden and home. He employs six artists. These six people have made the business what it is today. They are talented and creative. One of them has just started a family, one has relocated from abroad to be here, and one has set up a new home. They have become my husband's ‘work family’; they are more than just employees.
Yesterday, my husband went into work and told them that he was no longer able to pay them after April. Bigger companies have stopped ordering as there is no requirement for his product due to the restriction on gatherings of people. Smaller companies have stopped ordering as they are uncertain of what the future holds.
Never have I seen my husband look so drained. Not only is he witnessing his business that he has worked so hard for collapsing before his eyes, he has had to let down the people that have helped to make it what it is.
The mood in our house at the moment is sombre. I don’t want to add to my husband’s stress with my worries about work, so I keep quiet (this blog is helping).
We have two boys,12 and 14. They are like labradors, they need lots of exercise. If the country is on lock down for three months they will be climbing the walls!! For anyone who has kids of this age, you know that they eat LOADS. As soon as the cupboards are restocked, they are emptied within 48 hours. I’m struggling to get healthy food for them as the shops seem to have nothing in them.
After lock down, we shall know whose been stockpiling as they will emerge after three months overweight with very clean bums!
Then there is the issue with childcare. If healthcare workers are to be on the frontline who is to look after the kids? If they are old enough and you leave them at home alone, how can you ensure they eat well, they study, they stay in? If they are young, who looks after them? Grandparents are now not the go-to option.
This virus has affected everyone in multiple ways on multiple levels. No, this blog isn’t just about healthcare – it’s about being human. There will be many of us out there with stresses you are unaware of.
Please, be kind.
Call for action: Please send in any practical tips for barrier nursing patients and advice for staff well-being during this time. Join the conversation taking place on the hub.