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  • 24 July 2020
  • 7 min read

Care Home Nurses: How Coronavirus Has Changed Our Working Process

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  • Inga F
    Registered Mental Health Nurse
    • Richard Gill
    • Matt Farrah
  • 1
  • 2229
"I think it is a big lesson for everyone which has improved our skills to cope with lifes ups and downs."

In this personal account, Mental Health Nurse, Inga, highlights the procedural changes in the wake of Covid-19, and how a crisis can bring out both the best and worst of humanity.

Topics covered in this article

Shortage Of Staff

Emotional Pressure

Short Supply Of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

No Instructions, And Unclear Or Unrealistic Guidelines, We Felt Lost At Sea

New Skills And Roles

How Has The Pandemic Changed My Life?

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A Shortage Of Staff

Our group of full time and bank working nurses significantly thinned and managers often struggled to complete the shift.

Instead of 3 or 2 nurses on duty we had to work alone most of the time with long 14 hours day shift sometimes 4 days in row.

I cannot blame my colleagues that they thought it was better to leave the dangers of the field and stay at home during Covid.

Many were those who are really in the high-risk group and were strictly advised to stay at home, and others who feared virus and said that they needed to think first about themselves and their family.

Clever… but what about the other thousands of nurses that are still working of all disciplines performing their daily tasks?

Maybe they are just not so clever as the others?

Another thing that surprised me during staying at home, is that some of them ordered the special discount blue cards for key workers or using privileges for shopping online.

Emotional Pressure

We as all staff feared the possibility of getting virus and bringing it home.

We knew we couldn’t avoid emergency admission from hospital, and it meant it could be a Covid positive patient and we could be contaminated.

We were also worried about bringing the infection to our patients and were strictly following the governments restrictions and rules.

We felt a huge responsibility, because it was clearly understood that if Coronavirus came into our place, we would probably lose most of our residents.

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Short Supply Of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

It is no secret now that the care homes in some cases were affected even more than hospitals which were significantly prioritised compared to care homes.

The hospital is already structurally and functionally prepared to cope with infection and complicated health problems.

It has specific equipment and trained staff for it.

But care homes are quiet and peaceful places, and the vulnerable people in them were not ready.

When it started there was not PPE, not enough skilled staff that were ready for the battle with a massive infection.

I really admire all our workers and especially our managers for how we went through all of this with minimal losses.

Our staff showed high skills to knitting and stitching, made homemade masks and offered them to colleagues.

It came to my surprise that residents reacted way better to patterned made at home masks rather medical masks which possibly would have given them associations with hospitals.

People were watching YouTube to learn new creative ways for doing handmade PPE to save themselves, but some workers still refused to work without having proper fluid resistant surgical masks and our manager was running around all possible places to get it .

No Instructions, And Unclear Or Unrealistic Guidelines, We Felt Lost At Sea

We now have useful instructions, links, zoom meetings pouring on us every day.

But when the pandemic had just started, the instructions were very unclear and at a times not applicable for our specific place for dementia and another mental illness cases.

Because how do you explain dementia patient about social distancing?

Of course, you can try, but because of the short memory problems they will immediately forget about it.

How to stop people wandering around?

How to keep them in isolation if they in the high-risk group, but they did not want to sit tight in their room?

How to keep them safe?

How do you quickly create a care plan for rapid admission without any proper assessment?

What to do if a patient passed away and deceased body needs to be seen by the doctor, but they refused to come?

What to do with a broken denture if a diabetic patient refused to eat without it, and dentist is of course not available?

Lots of questions for months without answers…

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New Skills And Roles

Hair and beard cutting, activities, and doing extra paperwork left by those that had stayed home.

Most of our patients were upset and angry because they couldn’t understand what is going on around them.

Why do staff wear aprons, gloves, masks, speak through masks with a strange voice, why can’t they see their relatives and follow their normal routine.

They were easily agitated, and staff had to cope with their low moods as well.

We tried as much as possible to improve their mood: Painting nails, puzzles, watching old movies, painting in the colouring books, tried different hairstyles for women, varied their food and snacks as much as possible.

We organised facetime with relatives and read them letters from the outside.

Lots of hand washing and other things.

We had to follow the daily rules of observation on residents and staff such as checking temperature and another vital sign that can give early diagnosis.

I have definitely improved my level of computer skills because of the numerous video calls or zoom meetings and other communications online.

As colleagues we supported each other as we navigated the changes we met in our work and lives

How Has The Pandemic Changed My Life?

The answer is - Significantly!

I am not going to do a sweet write up that you could read now in some newspapers about lockdown.

Things like it’s time to enjoy doing nothing, more cooking and gardening, going bra-less, make up-off and waking naturally in my spare time that I had and still have very little of.

I’ve learnt how to use my time efficiently and as productive as possible.

How to take a minute to rest and possibly refresh my mind and body.

To be sincere, there was a lot of crying from me at the start.

I think at this challenging time of going through a crisis, it rips the masks off of everyone.

I found out that during our stay in isolation and the restrictions which were placed upon us, made some people mean and vicious because of the distress.

But I also see other examples of when during crisis people show their best of the best sides of personality.

I tried to take the pressure off by chatting with friends, doing some painting with acrylics, sometimes a glass of wine after especially hard day.

Two of my best cures for that were; books and Pilates.

Books were stimulating and refreshed my mind, and Pilates worked with my body to relieve the tension of long hours of hard work.

I like one English expression that describes this situation very well.

Every cloud has a silver lining.

I have learned many things about myself as I tested myself to work under a lot of pressure and I think it is a big lesson for everyone which has improved our skills to cope with lifes ups and downs.

Let me know in the comments how the pandemic has changed your working life and your thoughts on what I've said. - let's chat there!

Oh, and please Like this article to let me know you enjoyed it - thank you!

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  • Inga F
    Registered Mental Health Nurse

About the author

  • Inga F
    Registered Mental Health Nurse

I started work as a Registered Mental Health Nurse in October 2016. I was educated in Latvia, my country of origin. I am a mother of two daughters. I enjoy new experiences of living in another country with new friends, new hobbies and I'm thinking about my career development.

    • Richard Gill
    • Matt Farrah
  • 1
  • 2229

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    • Matt Farrah 3 years ago
      Matt Farrah
    • Matt Farrah
      3 years ago

      What a thoughtful and honest piece. Thanks Inga, really enjoyed reading that.