From the Frontline (part1)

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From The Frontline - Part 1

Since returning to work after the Christmas break, due to staff shortages and increased admissions, I have been redeployed from my usual role as an advanced practice physiotherapist in pain management, to the in-patient rehabilitation team.

It is more than 20 years since I have worked on the hospital wards, but when the request came for volunteers, I jumped at the chance to dig out my uniform and get stuck in.

You might be wondering why, when the majority of my work since the onset of COVID has been via telephone or video calls, meaning I can avoid the morning commute, have an extra hour’s sleep and work from the safety of my bedroom?

Well, apart from wanting to make a meaningful contribution in what is likely to be the biggest health crisis of my career, as the pandemic and all its restrictions drag on, I have increasingly felt disconnected to my professional values.

I love working as part of a team. The office discussions, frustrations vented, cups of tea and shared laughter. Working from home can be lonely.

I also value the therapeutic relationships I build with my patients, something that is do-able, but more difficult with a disembodied voice on the telephone. Face to face communication, non-verbal cues and touch can be vital sources of information, validation and reassurance.

I’m now a month into my secondment, and despite media reports of a health service that is overwhelmed, of staff that are stressed and struggling to cope, my experience has been wholly positive.

I do not want to diminish the efforts or experiences of any health professionals here. As a step-down ward we are a like a field hospital, taking casualties from the battlefield, but not experiencing the bloody combat first hand. I am also joining the fight late in the day, and not weary from a year of combat.

But I have been inspired by the kindness, the care and the professionalism that I have witnessed these last four weeks and wanted to give you a peek behind the scenes, without agenda or sensationalism.

I have been assigned to the therapies team, who continue to provide the same quality of rehabilitation amongst the changes and chaos that coronavirus has brought.

They manage the usual day to day challenges of helping patients back on their feet, ensuring the correct measures are in place when they leave the ward, but with the added complication of COVID. They have been moved from their usual base, the team split over two sites, home visits are restricted, family contact limited, not to mention the constantly changing guidelines.

The work is not glamorous or exciting, but requires empathy, tenacity, skill and knowledge. And more than ever, resilience, something this team have in bucketloads.

It is at this point I must also mention the nursing staff.

I am not the only one to be redeployed.

Due to the increased admissions, the NHS has redirected many of its nurses to the areas of most need. We are lucky to have been sent the most incredible group of health professionals, in the main from Moorfield’s eye hospital, but also from other specialist areas such as orthopaedics’ and bone health. Many don’t live in the area and are being put up in the local Premier Inn. 

Many used to 9-5 clinic work have taken on nights and late shifts.

You would expect all this disruption to create a tense atmosphere, of stress and worry, for care to be compromised. But, while things aren’t perfect, they are calm and collaborative. There is a sense of team, of shared purpose.

With a mainly female staff, this experience has caused me to reflect back on some of the ideas I discussed with Jack Chew on his podcast back in December, around success and leadership, and I will consider these further in part 2 of this blog.

But for now, I just want to say thank you. Thank you to all the wonderful staff I have had the privilege of working with these last few weeks. For the care and the kindness, the shared laughter, and of course, the cups of tea !    #WearetheNHS

Liz Prok

Straight-talking and kind, and here to help young women find themselves.

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