Redeployment at Hospice: Anxiety, excitement, reskilling, success!
By Gail Edwards February 2021
Redeployment, “the process of moving employees to a different job, or of sending them to work in a different place or using them in a more effective away …” (Cambridge Dictionary definition).
After two glorious weeks spent in the Bahamas in March 2020, coming back to Jersey was quite a shock. While I was on annual leave the impact of the coronavirus pandemic had global effect and Jersey was no exception. Jersey Hospice Care services were having to be prioritised and government restrictions meant that a large part of my role in delivering community education face to face had to be paused.
After many years working in different roles at Hospice I was going back to my roots and where I started back in 2007. My nine-month redeployment to the In Patient Unit at Hospice began after receiving supportive sessions of clinical skills updates provided by my Education Team colleagues.
I understandably had mixed feelings – initially I excitedly anticipated talking to patients and their families, and working directly with the people we care for once again, but I overlooked the reality of delivering outstanding care while adhering to the restrictions necessary to curtail a pandemic. Visitor numbers were limited on the In Patient Unit and the way we provided our care had to change too. I was also anxious about how the established team would accept me and I recognised that my new clinical role may pose a risk to my family – the people I love, who support me and keep me afloat.
So how did my redeployment pan out?
I soon felt part of the team and we – the redeployed and existing staff – very quickly gelled as a compassionate, effective team. I embraced it as an opportunity to refresh my skills and get to know different colleagues. Sharing our fears and anxieties about COVID-19 brought us closer, and as a team we became more resilient and supportive of each other. Media coverage of the pandemic, together with the frequently, but necessary, changing guidance compounded the team’s anxiety at times. It was easy to become anxious about what measures I, as a healthcare professional, really should take after a shift – should I wipe down every item of shopping with cliniwipes, shower at home before touching my husband etc?
Lockdown had an impact on all our lives – for me, 2020 summer in Jersey was glorious and I benefitted from working shifts (dare I say that!) with mid-week days off spent languishing in the garden, imagining we were in France! Or cycling. Exploring lesser known parts of the Island. Sharing a glass of bubbles with friends sitting socially distanced from us, relieved we were not on the mainland but being genuinely concerned for my family in South Africa. My family and friends are my invisible scaffolding and I really felt the lack of physical contact with them. Unwelcome conversations (with 30 plus year old sons) covering ‘what if...’ and ‘in the event of...’ were serious but important.
Colleagues had differing perspectives on the weekly clap for carers and essential workers, but at the time I felt this was positive, I felt appreciated and I joined in recognising fellow essential workers in every sector.
Night duty was a shock to the system and my husband Guy had to understand that “no”, I was not going to join him for lunch but instead sleep as long as possible! My drives home after a shift were too short to ‘switch off’ from work and I often had the overwhelming feeling of sadness that, due to government guidance regarding visitors on the In Patient Unit, we were unable to welcome our patients’ friends and family members as we would usually. Instead though, creativity came to the fore and different ways were found for patients and their loved ones to connect; the community excelled themselves through kind acts such as making pairs of fabric or knitted hearts to be given to a patient and loved one, school children wrote lovely encouraging cards that were displayed in rooms and FaceTime chats became the norm.
Over the years working in palliative and end of life care, a specialty I feel enormously proud to be part of, I have become more resilient and developed ways to cope, but to be honest, the emotion does not get any easier to deal with. Add to this the COVID-19 guidelines – constant wearing of a mask, plastic apron, gloves and more; being tired after an emotional shift caring for young patients, then coming home to find the fridge empty or that my husband had again gone out to get his daily fix of a newspaper (!), or when there was very little fresh produce in the supermarket on my weekly shop… it all adds up.
As the pressures from COVID-19 started to reduce in Jersey, Jersey Hospice Care was able to reinstate part of the community education programme and I was able to spend part of the week in my usual role, preparing or delivering education. Switching from pretty intense caring situations to delivering education was challenging, but oh so worth it when I actually witnessed the translation of learning into practice in the In Patient Unit.
I am now back full time in the Education Team and getting to grips with virtual teaching ... another new phase. Today’s Nursing Midwifery Council revalidation requires lifelong reflection and professional development: I sign up to this and think that it is these points of reflection which help us to grow both professionally and personally even in the most challenging of times. Along the way, apart from knowledge and new skills gained, one even makes new friends!