Five Minutes with: Nurses on the Front Line
May 12, 2020
Turns out, not all heroes wear capes. But they do wear masks. And scrubs. And very comfortable footwear.
In the very toughest of times, key workers have shone as those that keep our country running. And our NHS has taken its place as Britain’s saving grace. Rowdy-applause-and-pan-beating on a Thursday evening and rainbows in our windows and hung on our doors will always mark the hope and togetherness that we found as small ways to say thank-you. This year they all became heroes – the people at the front line of COVID-19, those that put themselves at risk to keep us safe.
Maybe none more so than our nurses.
Our nurses and their twelve-hour shifts. Our nurses and their daily, just-get-on-with-it bravery. Our nurses and their commitment to the care of our families.
To celebrate International Nurses Day we caught 5 minutes with Katy and Charlotte, two sisters working on an amber COVID ward in Arrowe Park Hospital on the Wirral to find out the special kind of something it takes to be a nurse this year.
What made you want to be a nurse?
Katy: I actually wanted to be a midwife, originally. My younger sister was really ill after her GCSE’s and needed a lot of help to even move and shower. So, I offered to help, and got so much from being there for her and trying to make her feel comfortable that I decided to apply for nursing instead. It is definitely rewarding to help people through their hardest times – my sister and I are bonded even closer for that.
Charlotte: I never really saw myself doing anything other than nursing. Katy was a nurse already and a real influence for me to pursue it. I was a domestic in the hospital and felt I could make a difference. I also cared for my Grandad with dementia, he would often fall so I stayed with him when I was younger and would give anything to still be doing that … so I do it for other people’s Grandads, instead.
Can you describe a typical day from wake-up call to lights out?
Katy: I’m up at six, and grab a quick shower. I hug the kids before I go, knowing they should be in bed by the time I’m home. It’s only a short drive to work, so when I get on the ward, I’ll grab a coffee with my team (an actual hot one, which I rarely get with two kids at home).
Before I can start my shift, I take handover from the night staff, then team up with the clinical support worker (my eyes and ears) to catch any other important details about the people we’ll be taking care of that day. We have a ‘safety huddle’ as a team.
Then, the day begins. Morning drugs rounds, introducing myself to my patients so they know who I am and feel comfortable with me. We take observations (heart rate, O2 levels and blood pressure) as a baseline so that we can monitor any deterioration. I’ve usually taken a few calls by now, from worried relatives who can’t visit or departments arranging scans. My job list grows for the day pretty rapidly: assessments, blood reviews, consultant rounds, drug rounds, dressings, fluids, cannulas and arranging discharging or admissions to the wards. It’s constant.
When the night shift arrives, we smile, wave and handover and then head to the car park in convoy. Then it’s home to hopefully sleeping babies. We have to shower and wash our hair as soon as we get home through risk of any infection, then I’ll kiss the kids goodnight and grab something to eat with an episode of Emmerdale.
Charlotte: It sounds really quick when you summarise it like that but it’s such a long day. 12 hour shifts at least. The lights never really go out in nursing. Day shifts and night shifts have their own obstacles – especially at the moment – learning names, needs and any personal details as well as medical ones to take better care of our patients. Because families can’t visit their loved ones, I like to try and find out what might make them feel looked after, their favourite song or how they’d usually shave. The little things like that.
What/Who has inspired you lately?
Katy: The nation has inspired me lately. The amount of support that my colleagues and I have received has been astounding. Thursdays are particularly emotional. And we have received donations to the ward like food and hand creams and a lot of cake. (Cake is always good).
Charlotte: Katy is always inspiring me to do more and be better. She’s a warrior – she has just been confirmed COVID-positive and had 2 young children to look after. She did it all without complaining and went straight back to work after the 2 weeks of isolation.
How would you describe the qualities it takes to be a nurse? Especially during the pandemic?
Katy: Compassion, empathy, patience. Good communication skills, a sense of humour and a strong bladder!! Having good support networks and being able to de-stress has been particularly important through the pandemic. It has been emotionally challenging, for sure.
Charlotte: Patience, compassion, kindness. During this time people aren’t allowed to see their loved ones so we, as nurses, are their constant. If we’re sad or grumpy, it will really reflect in our patient’s ability to cope, too.
What do you love most about your job?
Katy: I love being able to offer someone the chance at a good experience through their hospital stay. It can be scary, for them and their family. And I like to think I can be there to help ease their concerns that they’ll be taken good care of. And even in the sad times, when patients are receiving bad news or families have lost loved ones – it’s really not easy, but I take away something from being able to be there for them.
Charlotte: I love seeing people recover and get home. We obviously come across a lot of people who do not recover, and that’s always so tough, but when you see someone hit back and kick the bum of this infection and get themselves home, it’s the greatest.
Decades from now, how do you think you’ll describe this year to your Grandchildren?
Katy: The year when everyone realised the importance and uniqueness of the NHS, I hope.
Charlotte: The craziest year ever! I still haven’t quite grasped it’s real life. I feel like I am going to be one of those Nans that the grandkids will be telling to shush all the time. While I’m there harping on “Back in my day, we couldn’t go out. Back in my day, we had to queue 2 metres apart. Back in my day I went to work and cared to Covid-19 patients, you can do your homework.”
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
Katy: That no question is a stupid question. No one can know everything and you should never pretend that you do. There is no shame in not knowing.
Charlotte: Keep your head up because if it’s down you won’t be able to see the blessings that have been placed in front of you.
What keeps you going on the tough days?
Katy: The support from my colleagues and family. And being able to come home and hug my kids.
Charlotte: Friends, family and my team. The friendships you have with your workmates are like no other. My family gets my grumps and my mood swings – because you have to have them. When you’ve smiled and been positive for your patients for 12 hours, you need to be grumpy at some point. And my family will just roll their eyes and let me be. And my friends keep me in touch with life and get my mind off work.
What are you most proud of in your life so far?
Katy: My two babies.
Charlotte: I am most proud of my career and how far I’ve come. I struggled a lot in school and was tested several times for dyslexia – I only actually got diagnosed when I was doing my A-Levels. I didn’t let this hold me back, even when I had to step off my course in university for 6 months. I kept going, and finished with a First Class Degree.
What is your favourite Cath Kidston piece and why?
Katy: I love my Winnie The Pooh purse. The detail on it is beautiful and I always get complimented on it.
Charlotte: Mine is the foldaway Overnight Bag. Our sister got it for me. Every time we go away I get this bag out. My partner secretly loves it too as it’s so roomy but also can go in a drawer when we’re not using it.
To say thank-you to Katy, Charlotte and the entire community of nurses – we’re donating thousands of Cath Kidston mugs to hospitals all over the country. Just a little something that we hope will bring them a smile (and a good shot at a hot cup of tea).
If you’re a nurse, carer or police, for that matter, we’re also offering a 20% discount. You’re all heroes, and we’re grateful.