A nursery nurse has temporarily swapped roles to help vulnerable adults shielding at home due to the pandemic.
Jenny King, a Community Nursery Nurse for Torbay and South Devon NHS Foundation Trust, has been working with the Trust’s Rapid Response Community Team for more than a month after an appeal for help during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Despite knowing nothing about the job, she agreed to become a support worker and has found it completely different to her normal job, but very rewarding: “I knew that in this time of need I wanted to be of help to those who needed it the most.
“Although the job is different from that of my previous role, I realised that many of the skills I have are transferable.
“Empathy, compassion, and good people skills are something I pride myself at being good at and it is in this role that I realise how valuable those skills and attributes are to the job.
“I feel privileged to work alongside these incredible workers, not only are they skilled in personal care but the emotional warmth and stability they show is heart-warming.”
Jenny was trained and initially assigned mentors to visit older people at home, those with underlying and complex health conditions and at the end of their lives. She said it felt very alien to be learning about vital signs, catheter care and end of life support. This contrasted with breastfeeding support, childhood development and maternal mental health issues in her permanent job.
But she said the challenge and opportunity to help was exciting and something she looked forward to despite lacking experience of any kind of personal care work. Jenny was made to feel welcome and was well supported by the team: “The thought of visiting clients with serious health conditions and end of life care absolutely terrified me.”
“I shadowed my mentor Karen who guided me gently in new and sensitive situations, always asking if I was comfortable. It’s not easy to experience end of life care and know what to say and do! I never felt pressured to do anything above my own capabilities, and when I felt ready, we worked as a team with her giving direction where I needed it.’’
Within a few days, she supported Karen in all tasks, from giving strip washes, cleaning dentures and providing clients with meals.
Jenny said: “It’s been important for me to recognise that however a client may feel or act, that we are the consistent factor and offer the support they need to feel safe.
“I will never forget the first time someone held my hand tight and thanked me for cleaning them or for making them a cup of tea. It might not always be a long visit, but its value is unmeasurable.”
She is enjoying the variety in the job and inspired to learn more about supporting her new colleagues who she calls incredible workers: “It’s not an easy job, and they do not always get the credit they deserve. They go above and beyond to provide exceptional care and support to those who would without them, not be able to stay in their own homes.
“Every patient I have had the pleasure of meeting leaves an imprint. I can be a smile to someone who needs it, a companion to the lonely and provide dignity and comfort during the hardest times. I never expected to feel so valued and respected in the job, both by clients, families and more than anything the incredible rapid response team who have led by example – especially my mentors Jayne and Karen.”
Jenny looks forward to returning to her old job, supporting families with young children. But adds: “This new job has opened my eyes to a whole new look at life and how the NHS can support people in the most amazing ways. I feel honoured to work for our wonderful NHS in a time of crisis.” Clare McNulty
Three of her nursery nurse colleagues are also working on the community support service – Clare McNulty, Janice Tully and Billie Beesley.
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