The healthcare assistants on our inpatient unit provide vital care and support. Here, staff members share their experiences of working on the ward and the challenges they’ve faced to keep Martlets caring during the coronavirus pandemic.
Facing up to the challenge of COVID-19
“Martlets took on Covid patients during the early stages of the lockdown, to ease pressure on the hospitals. My colleagues and I all had very bad ‘wobbles’ when we were first given Covid patients to look after. We ran short of PPE in the beginning, but thanks to donations from the local community we were then in good supply.
The PPE (face masks and visors) meant the patients couldn’t see our facial expressions. I constantly told them I was laughing and when appropriate would do a silly dance!
At one stage, visiting patients was heavily restricted due to Covid safety restrictions. On one occasion we had a patient and his sons were outside the window. I was sat holding his hand and the sons were asking me to squeeze it. They would say through the window ‘Dad, can you feel me squeezing your hand, I’m here Dad, I love you’. It was very emotional.”
“Working through Covid-19, there was the initial anxiety of the unknown as we didn’t know if we’d have enough PPE. We also worried that we might catch it and pass it on to our families at home. In line with government safety measures, visitors were restricted. Seeing people looking at their loved ones through the glass door and not being able to hold their hands was heartbreaking. We are a very close group of HCAs and we are always there for each other. Even though we had ‘wobbles’ we got through it together.”
— Sandra Almeida
“Being a healthcare assistant (HCA) can be very physically and emotionally demanding, but rewarding too. An HCA walks on average six miles a day moving about the ward!
It was very challenging getting used to wearing PPE for long shifts. But we have all got used to it now, as we know it ensures our safety, and that of the patients. It has been difficult sometimes, with the masks and visors, to communicate with the patients. They can’t see our faces or expressions or lip-read if they can’t hear. Wearing the masks and visors can also be very uncomfortable and make us hot if worn for a longtime.
Due to Covid restrictions, relatives have not been able to visit the ward until a patient is close to end-of-life. We have been there more than usual helping the patients, to offer support and to reassure them. We’ll hold their hand sometimes on behalf of the relative and also do what we can to make them laugh!
— Sue Turner
A rewarding feeling
“It’s a really rewarding feeling to make someone comfortable and look after their wellbeing. Things like putting fresh sheets on the bed or putting on their favourite TV programme or some lovely music to listen to. I love giving patients baths as it’s a way of pampering them particularly if they can’t take a bath at home. They are always so appreciative. It’s lovely when they like the way you’ve combed their hair, or given them a shampoo in bed with a shampoo cap. It’s nice when they feel better because you’ve put cream on their legs or given them a hand or foot massage. Seeing them enjoy simple things like a cup of tea are rewarding. Or helping them eat and enjoy their dinner when they can’t feed themselves or haven’t been hungry.
I looked after an elderly gentleman on the ward during lockdown who spent most of his last weeks alone because of the Covid restrictions. I helped him make a phone call to his wife for one of the last times as he was near end of life. I took him round the garden in his wheelchair and we talked about the flowers and I kept him company.
— Sue Turner
Hope, purpose and possibility
“My hope is that the pandemic has taught people to be kinder to each other. I have learnt that I am stronger than I think and to enjoy the simple things in life. At the end of the day, it’s people that count — friends, family and colleagues. I love my colleagues who are the greatest bunch of amazing, caring people. We’ve supported each other during a very difficult, dark time in lockdown. They are like my family.
Thank you to the public for the many wonderful donations, from PPE to food. Thanks too to Waitrose for donating a whole display stand of Easter eggs to Martlets on Easter Sunday! Also, the good wishes and praise from the community and relatives of patients always gives us such a boost and we really appreciate it.”
— Sue Turner