Hi, This is Norman Cook and I will be reading a story by Louise Gregory which they have contributed to Gratitude, a wonderful public art installation, which commemorates and celebrates the stories of this extraordinary moment in time and pays tribute to all of our key workers from across the country.
To give you some context, Martlets Hospice community nurse Louise Gregory has been delivering comfort and care for end of life patients for six years, but Covid-19 created a particular challenge: providing reassurance when people can’t see you smiling.
‘KEEPING ON CARING THROUGH COVID’
BY LOUISE GREGORY, CLINICAL NURSE SPECIALIST AT MARTLETS HOSPICE IN HOVE
When I go to someone’s home, I see their carpets, I see pictures of their family, their intimate possessions, and what they like to read. I see what makes them a person and what matters to them. I can talk to them about those things and their lives, and about who they are beyond their illness. That’s the beauty of community nursing and why I do it.
We talk about patients as a group of people, but that doesn’t describe the humanness of what I experience when I visit them. We feel so privileged to go into people’s homes at a time in their lives when they are at their most vulnerable. Twenty-four hours a day, we provide pain relief, administer medication and offer mobility support – but what we do is more than simply caring for their clinical needs; we bear witness to what they are going through, and we see the whole person, not just a patient.
People with terminal illness have felt particularly isolated during the lockdowns, especially if they have been shielding. They understand that we need to have full PPE on when we visit, but they no longer see our smiles. The PPE is to keep them and us safe, but seeing us dressed like that has reminded people how dangerous COVID can be – especially before the vaccine was rolled out.
Some of our patients struggle with different forms of communication. When they can’t see our mouths and eyes, it can be difficult; if you’re deaf, for example, you can’t lip read, and you can’t gauge our emotions if our faces are covered.
I’ve been a clinical nurse specialist in and around Brighton for the last six years and at Martlets Hospice, in Hove, for almost three years, but this year has been particularly relentless. All my colleagues have gone the extra mile and taken on extra shifts. It’s not just about being resilient at work, though; you can’t just close the door and go home to normality, because COVID has been affecting our home lives as well. We’ve got children to look after that we’ve had to home school, and we’ve been looking after our elderly parents and our elderly partners, too.
Everyone has felt so exhausted, but we have learnt so much about each other, and what we can achieve together. Thank you for listening to this story. For more stories and information on Gratitude, please visit: www.thisisgratitude.co.uk