Today Jade Trewick, a senior sister/ charge nurse on ward 49 at the RVI was named as one of four ‘NHS heroes’ to officially start The Great North Run on 12 September.
Jade has been key to the success of ward 49 – a respiratory support unit which provides both intensive care and step-down care for COVID positive patients.
The ward itself – which was created in just 12 weeks – was used initially to care for patients with more severe COVID-19 infection including those requiring continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) and a higher level of monitoring under the care of medical teams or patients needing critical care.
“You want to do everything right – you often feel like you’re not doing enough and you always want to do more – but then you remind yourself that we’re only human and we can only do our best,” she said.
“Everyone has worked so hard – they’ve given everything – and you have to accept you’ve done that otherwise, inevitably, that can have an impact on your own mental health.”
At the busiest times during the pandemic and with the country in lockdown, Jade and the team were the only people who could provide any physical form of contact with patients – the hand to hold, the face-to-face chat albeit through the PPE.
And while patients could stay in touch with loved-ones through phone calls, social media or video links, the support Jade provided often extended to family in the ‘outside world’ away from the busy hospital wards.
“As nurses we provide that support already…. being that patient advocate when needed and providing a shoulder to cry on has always been very much part of our role,” she explained.
“I think the difference during this pandemic is those expectations had increased and we found ourselves being there more and more for our patients – and families – as we wanted to do the absolute best we could for them.
“So at the end of a shift when you go home, yes you know it’s been busy but to know you’ve spent those few extra minutes with a patient – and they’re a little bit better for it – make all the difference.
“We always tried to ensure patients stay in contact with families – whether that’s through an ipad or a DECT phone I’ve cleaned down for them – and naturally we’ve spent more time on the phone with families as they were really anxious.
“It’s a case of being there for someone and it has been difficult seeing – at times – how lonely our patients particularly can get particularly if they’re unwell and low in mood.”
While COVID has, no doubt, has a massive impact on staff, it has also brought out the very best in our workforce and the close bonds teams have formed and the support they’ve given each other will last way beyond this pandemic.
When the respiratory support unit was established, the staff didn’t really know each other as a team and many had been redeployed from different areas.
It was Jade’s responsibility, with the support of her two juniors who she describes as ‘just fabulous’, to ensure that staff had the appropriate competencies, training and support they needed to do their difficult jobs.
“Many staff had been redeployed from different areas – my key role was to put in the appropriate training and support required and to be as open and honest with the staff – if they were struggling in any way they knew they could come to me.
“I didn’t want anyone to feel they were out of their depth or they were being thrown into a situation on the wards – it was about being there for them every day.
“The one positive thing through all of this is we’ve kept each other going, we’ve had a nice working environment in really difficult circumstances and the culture on the ward has meant we’re now a big family who support each other through thick and think.
“Yes it’s been really difficult – we’ve been through just about every emotion – but we’ve cried together, we’ve laughed together and had moments of joy when patients got better together. That’s what we’ve done together, we’ve pulled through until the next day…..”