- 26 March 2020
- 8 min read
How Coronavirus has affected me as a General Practice Nurse
Claire, a GP Nurse, describes in detail what it's like working in General Practice and what she's doing in and out of work to guard against the virus.
Topics covered in this article
The Year of the Nurse and Midwife... this is 2020 nursing
2020 was declared the Year of the Nurse and Midwife by The World Health Organisation.
What a year to kick this off, we are currently in a COVID-19 Pandemic and healthcare workers are on the front line of it all.
As healthcare professionals we are used to infectious diseases / viruses and know how to isolate those who need it most.
Furthermore, we are also used to following best policies and guidance which is regularly updated to keep up to date with our profession.
However, we are now receiving daily updates from Public Health England and The World Health Organisation on what to do next in this current COVID-19 pandemic.
The emergency bill on COVID-19 has now been released which you can read here.
Covid 19 - what it has meant for my work in the clinic
I have worked in healthcare for around 12 years now and have never seen anything like it.
It feels like a very uncertain time at the moment, however, as nurses (and not just me in general) we are trained to work under pressure – calmly.
But as nurses, we are very good at infection control and keeping our patients safe; which is exactly what I am doing right now.
I have found myself cleaning every single object in my room after every single patient, along with the waiting room chairs, door handles and everything in between.
Which, normally, we wouldn’t do so much unless we had a high risk infectious patient.
But right now, you can’t be too sure what people have touched and how this virus is spreading so quickly between people.
I know I would rather be safe than sorry and follow the NMC code of conduct to maintain patient safety.
How we are managing patients coming into practice
The next thing our clinic is doing is moving over to telephone consultations instead of face to face with patients.
Unless a patient needs an urgent appointment, they won’t be coming through our doors.
Pre-booked appointments are being called up and asked ‘have you travelled abroad or been in contact with anyone who has travelled abroad in the last few weeks’ along with ‘do you have any of the COVID-19 symptoms or have you been near anyone with these symptoms in the last 14 days?’ along with the final one ‘are you or any of your family members in self isolation right now?’
We have been told that if someone is showing symptoms of Coronavirus and needs an urgent appointment then we should still see them, but in our designated isolation room or via a home visit and have a thorough deep clean of the clinic afterwards.
We should also minimise their time in the waiting room, we have actually closed our front doors now so that people do not come inside clinic and put others at risk.
We are getting them to stay in their car or wait at a safe distance outside and we will call them into clinic when needed.
Right now, we have been told those who need urgent care take priority over those who don’t need it.
Which is great for me, as what we have been taught at university is prioritisation!
So I feel I am putting to use that knowledge as a newly qualified nurse.
Those patients might include, an ‘at risk patient’ but who has a leg ulcer at risk of infection and sepsis or a patient with chest pain needing an ECG.
We have cancelled all routine appointments until further notice and all patients have been messaged by text, email, online on the website or a telephone call to let them all know what’s going on and to avoid any unnecessary visits.
Preventing panic among our patients
So, what is my clinic like day to day right now?
Very … eerie… I don’t know if this is the calm before the storm?
It feels like it… patients have been very sensible and cancelled their own appointments if it has been non urgent to prevent risk of catching COVID-19.
The patients, who are coming in, are asking if we have any updates on it.
There are two types of patients I have noticed:
1. The ones who say ‘we’ve been through worse and we will get through this, I’m not worried at all’ and
2: I don’t know how I will cope, I’m terrified.’
For a lot of people, it’s a time of uncertainty and that’s what’s making them anxious.
I do my best to have a happy medium with my patients.
I try not to put panic into them, reassure them as much as I can but also have a sense of ‘you really need to maintain infection control measures, be sensible and listen to the government daily advice.’
There have been a few lighter hearted conversations too which has been lovely amongst it all.
I’m the sort of person that will crack a joke at bad times.
I like to try and lift people’s moods even when times are at the worst.
It’s nice to try and talk anything other than COVID-19 right now to be honest.
I had a lovely patient in, and they told me all about their war days and some events that happened back then, I sat and listened in amazement.
It was fabulous to hear their story and I loved spending that extra time with them to do that.
For my clinic, I have had mainly wound management patients, ECG’s and urgent blood testing at the minute.
I am trying to manage the wound dressings so that high risk groups don’t come into clinic so much.
So limiting to one dressing change a week, or getting them to manage this at home and call us if needed.
Those at more risk of a wound infection we will see first, but things such as a cut finger or small skin tear that’s healing, is ok to send home to manage.
Any patients that have someone at home to help them out, we will get them to help us manage their dressings at home.
I have been teaching infection control techniques, how to change dressings safely, given all the equipment needed to do this at home.
How I'm dealing with the crisis at home
My journey to and from clinics has been strange too, since we have been in ‘lock down’ I have been so much more aware of my surroundings.
Wondering who is on the roads, are they keyworkers, where are they going.
I have become that nosey neighbour haha!
Not only this, but I have been asking those vulnerable around me, family and neighbours if they are ok or do they need any help with anything?
It’s times like this where communities start to come together again and help each other out, it’s lovely.
My dad is self-isolating as he is in his 70’s now and he’s always been a social butterfly.
I worried for his mental health at a time like this, so I decided to buy him an iPad so that I and other family and friends can video chat with him and making him feel a bit more included in the world.
He has no clue about technology, and no idea how to use it properly yet, but I have finally had a successful video chat with him yay!
He’s absolutely over the moon with it and I’m over the moon I can check in on him.
However, I also feel guilty for leaving the house, wondering what I may come into contact with, who I might pass it onto without realising.
For example, I went to the shop today as my dogs needed their weekly dog food or they will starve.
I felt guilty for walking down the street, thinking ‘is this essential…’
It’s so very strange. But on my journey, I kept my social distance from anyone walking by, smiled and said hello as I passed hoping to give them some cheer for the day.
I used contactless payment only to avoid touching the card pad and wished the pet shop lady a ‘good day’ as I left.
I returned home, washed my hands thoroughly and decided I didn’t need to go outside again today.
This is all a very strange and uncertain time for us all, whether you work in healthcare or not.
We must remember to take care of ourselves as well as each other right now.
If you find yourself struggling during this pandemic please seek help, pick up the phone and call someone.
This time will eventually pass, and I truly believe we will all be a better and stronger nation than ever – keep going everyone, you’ve got this!