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Working on our patient discharge team

Sacha Walker is a healthcare assistant working on our patient discharge team. She talks about the importance of supporting patients as they make the transition from our inpatient unit to returning home.

I’ve been a healthcare assistant (HCA) on Martlets’ inpatient unit (IPU) for three years, but back in February I started working for our patient discharge team. Judith, the discharge planning co-ordinator, showed me what is involved in discharging patients. The team arranges packages of care and gets all the paperwork sorted out. They also ensure all the equipment from the occupational therapist (OT) is ready to go for when they get home. I didn’t realise how quickly our Martlets OTs and Physios get that equipment into the patient’s home. It’s so important as then the patient can make an easier transition from being on the ward to being in their own environment. The team makes sure all the medication is on site ready to go with them. There’s checklists that they work through to make sure everything is ready and correct on the patient’s discharge day so they feel fully supported in transition to home.

Flexible working

I was working in the role for a month, but I’m now working from home. I had three weeks off with stress as the lockdown began. This was because there was no daycare or respite care for my daughter Amy, who has complex care needs. She’s registered blind and has epilepsy and is dependent for all her care. For the first six weeks of lockdown she didn’t sleep much because being blind she can’t always determine day from night. She would take cat naps and me and my husband would take turns doing the night shift with her. I couldn’t do that and function at work as well so took some time off.

Martlets were brilliant. They were so flexible and said whatever we can do to help you be able to work we’ll do. They gave me a laptop to use at home and said any problems with juggling commitments or stress just let them know. I only do 16 hours, but I do it over three days from home. This makes it easier to manage work life balance. It has also given me a bit of a focus and a structure which is so important.

Hope, purpose and possibility

I like having the flexibility of working from home if I need to. Perhaps working patterns for everyone will change a bit after coronavirus as we’re all used to using Zoom now. It would be good to have a meeting with Judith each week in person once we get back to normal.

When I worked on the ward we did team-building days from time to time. I do miss that contact and seeing colleagues. Eleanor, the Sister who leads my team, did a Zoom meeting the other day with the team. I hadn’t seen my IPU work colleagues at all until then and it was really quite emotional. It would be nice to see them again in person without masks once restrictions are lifted.

My hope is that once the pandemic situation stabilises, I can learn more about my current role. I love working in discharge services and would like to sit in more planning meetings. It’s interesting to see how patients are getting on week to week. In the discharge team you hear more about how the patient is doing and how the clinical team are managing their care. You also find out what the patient needs at home and get a broader view of their care.

A few words from Judith Williams, Martlets’ discharge planning coordinator:

Before the pandemic our team of volunteer discharge buddies were helping patients make the transition to being back home. Leaving the IPU can be a worrying time for some, so this scheme was set up to support them. Discharge buddies are specially trained volunteers who work closely with patients in the first few weeks at home. They help them feel safe and get settled.

Due to the restrictions imposed in light of the pandemic they have not been able to provide this vital role and Sacha has taken parts of this on. Their role has been absolutely invaluable in supporting patients who might be struggling with medication or other issues. We have all missed their unstinting enthusiasm, skills and wisdom.