Emma-Jane Beer has been a Clinical Nurse Specialist in Palliative Care at Trinity for nearly 15 years. She sheds light on Trinity’s care amid COVID-19.

Responding to the pandemic

In recent months, we have spent more time working in the office due to lockdown and visiting restrictions. We have been putting this time to good use by building relationships over the phone.

One can build trust and connect this way, but I do prefer being with patients in person. When you are talking to someone face to face about sensitive topics, the non- verbal cues, the eye contact or just ‘feeling’ the atmosphere in the room gives you a sense of the unsaid. Our patients and their families have been very understanding about why we can’t visit as much as usual but if a patient’s needs become complex then we will go to them.

The restrictions imposed by the government were understandably distressing. The Community team has certainly seen more unwell patients with complex needs. Some have been living with intense and difficult psychosocial situations.

We did all we could to adapt quickly and mitigate the impact by enabling our patients to access care services remotely.

Before the pandemic, these patients may have decided that the Inpatient Unit was better suited to the care they needed but visiting restrictions have meant that some have decided to stay at home. Where this is the case, the Community team has been central to their care. This has been challenging at times, but we have been working closely with our incredible colleagues in the Patient and Family Support team, whose expertise has proved invaluable.

Reflecting back to the height of lockdown and the pandemic, one brave woman on my caseload will have a lasting impact on me. A hard decision was made for her to come to the hospice for end of life care. The paramedics who brought her in were amazingly compassionate and allowed the family to say their goodbyes for several hours before they left her house to be admitted to the hospice.

“One of our counsellors and I found ways to keep her connected with her family despite them not being able to visit. They described us as their eyes and ears.”

We took photos of flowers the family sent her and shared videos of her with myself. The family described the team as their eyes and ears. Her sisters were able to sit with her the night before she passed away.

The pandemic has led to changes to how the Community team works at Trinity. We have had to work really hard. It has forced us to make smarter decisions and we have developed new processes and policies which will be a positive legacy. As some of the restrictions are lifted, we hope to slowly return to normality.

However, it is not over. In our 129-year history, we have never faced such a severe challenge.

We need your support to help us continue providing outstanding palliative and end of life care to our patients and their families.

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