International Nurses’ Day: ‘Scary and humbling – as a nurse, you don’t always know what you’re walking in to’
The global coronavirus pandemic has shone a light on those treating patients on the front line.
To mark International Nurses’ Day, Sky News spoke to two people on the Wirral who have witnessed the impact of COVID-19 on the public and their colleagues.
Charlotte Botes is a community and special nurse manager. She describes what it’s like to be a nurse in 2020.
You don’t always know what you’re walking into – sometimes it can be scary.
But the training is so good. We’re trained to deal with whatever comes our way and it’s such a special place to work. It can be really humbling.
As district nurses, we deal with everything from end of life, to complex wound care, heart failure and MS. You need such a range of skills and depth of knowledge to keep really poorly patients at home – and I love every minute.
Since coronavirus arrived in the UK, it’s been challenging times – but rewarding times, too. Things are different and we’re definitely using more technology. Situations can change so quickly – sometimes a whole day gets rearranged, perhaps a patient’s condition deteriorates, or a patient gets discharged home to die, or a patient due a visit may pass away.
And it’s difficult for the staff. They’re also having to deal with their own childcare and isolating grandparents. But they’re amazing, they’re so dedicated.
My staff and my colleagues have spent time with people who have the virus. Some people are confirmed positive and others have the symptoms. It can cause anxiety. Staff are going into care homes to help the frail and elderly.
I do think they’re brave, but they know it’s their job – it’s part of our day-to-day work. Those patients who must be seen… they need to be seen.
My staff have the PPE they need, but it’s very hot to wear and a little bit more cumbersome. We have to be a lot more mindful… they’ve always got infection control in their minds because they want protect the patient as well as themselves.
I’ve wanted to be a district nurse since I was a student. I loved my placement in the community and that was it for me. I’ve been in this role for 11 years but I’ve been in district nursing for 21 years. It’s such a supportive environment and such a rewarding role.
I meet people who perhaps I wouldn’t have come across in any other walk of life. Some of the patients are such characters, and the staff are like another family. I often spend more time with them than at home.
The hardest of times are when staffing is challenging and you’re trying to recruit into vacancies when you don’t have the candidates. Sometimes, with end-of-life patients, you feel you really connect with them.
But if they haven’t got family, you want to put so much into them that it can be upsetting when there are carers going in and holding their hands, instead of family. Time can be so pressured when you’re trying to fit so much into a shift and it can be particularly bad when you feel you can’t give the support you want to, to patients and staff.
The best of times? Seeing the staff flourishing and enjoying what they’re doing. Supporting them through another qualification and seeing how much they’ve progressed, making a lasting impression with a patient and their family.
A lot of focus goes on hospital staff but I’d also like to remember the fantastic work that community nurses do every day, and the high level of knowledge and skills they have.
Hand on heart, I love my job.
Paula Simpson, a director of nursing on the Wirral, says her job is a privilege.
For me, nursing has been the most amazing career.
I work with wonderful people and continue to be inspired by their selfless compassion and kindness each and every day.
From health visitors, school nurses and family nurses to district nurses, community matrons and specialist nurses we are invited into people’s homes and trusted to deliver exceptional care and support.
The relationships community nurses develop with people throughout their lives are very special. We walk alongside people from the birth of their babies to the end of their lives.
Our main objective is to help people to thrive, to remain independent for as long as possible and to support them when things get tough.
Throughout all of this, we work independently, making complex clinical decisions and delivering care that keeps people at home.
The care we offer is always based on people’s individual needs and often supported by our valued colleagues; GPs, therapists and social care staff.
It’s a real team effort and lives are transformed as a result.
In recent days when we have been responding to the COVID pandemic, I have been overwhelmed by the level of energy and commitment demonstrated. They have shown enormous courage, adapting to an ever-changing situation, embracing new technologies and always delivering the highest level of care.
It has been humbling to see our patients being as caring towards us as we are towards them as we face these difficult times together.
On international nurses day this year, I would like to pay special tribute to all of my colleagues and encourage anyone to consider nursing as a future career.