Community nursing teams have pulled out all the stops to ensure their most vulnerable patients get the care they need throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.
Teams have adapted their ways of working to keep patient visits to a minimum – whether it’s carrying out telephone consultations or teaching families basic wound care.
But they are also continuing to visit a significant number of their most vulnerable patients to deliver vital care in their own homes, including those who have tested positive for coronavirus.
The community nurses must now put on personal protective equipment (PPE) every time they go into somebody’s home, limit contact as much as possible, and then take it off again when they leave.
Sarah Mallett, clinical lead for East Cleveland community nursing, praised the hard work and dedication of all the community nursing teams at South Tees Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust for rising to the challenge.
“The vast majority of our patients are quite elderly which puts them in the vulnerable category and if they are not elderly they are in the at risk category,” she said.
“We had to come up with lots of new ways of working so we are not exposing these patients to any potential dangers or harm.
“The staff have been absolutely fantastic; they have really stepped up to the mark. They got on board with all the PPE training and they have all been like troopers just getting on with it.”
Over the past few weeks the team have:
- Introduced telephone consultations for patients who are well enough
- Promoted independence by showing patients how to do some basic dressing changes
- Trained up family members to provide basic diabetes care and wound care
“Some families have absolutely jumped on board and supported us because they did not want a lot of different people going into their relative’s home,” said Sarah.
Some community nurses with respiratory experience have also volunteered to temporarily swap roles to use their specialist skills to help the intensive care teams at The James Cook University Hospital. These include Kelly Kirtley, Jessica Anderson, Hannah King and Kirsty Ivison.
Likewise, other community teams such as community matrons, coronary heart disease nurses and continence and stoma teams have provided support to community nursing to help fill any rota gaps while a number of nursing homes have also offered to help by taking over some aspects of care.
And it doesn’t stop overnight.
An additional team has had to be put in place overnight to meet the high demand of palliative care patients.
This has been staffed by colleagues who would usually work daytime shifts but have kindly volunteered to step in and support the out of hours teams.
“It’s very different to what we are used to,” added Sarah. “It’s especially hard when we see families getting upset and we can’t give them a hug like we usually would.
“But patients have been quite accepting of seeing us in our PPE and everyone is working together to ensure patients gets the care they need, although the way this is delivered may look slightly different to normal – we’re all in this together!”