Inside the Wisdom Hospice During Covid

During these last few difficult months during the COVID-19 pandemic, The Wisdom Hospice has endeavoured to continue to be there for our Community. Caring and comforting, providing essential palliative support to patients and their families in unprecedented circumstances. The wheels of the Hospice never stop.

Two members of our front line staff share their experiences of Hospice care during this pandemic.

Katherine Longhurst – Community Palliative Care Specialist

Katherine Longhurst
Community Palliative
Care Specialist

I qualified as a physiotherapist 20 years ago.

Previously I had been part of the respiratory team for Medway Community Healthcare where I was Palliative Care Lead. I left that position in September 2016 but continued to work in the community respiratory area.

Then the hospice did something which I think is unique and established a team with a mixed diversity of skills, offering out roles to paramedics and suitably qualified physiotherapist for the first time. I jumped at the chance of joining the hospice team in September 2019.

My passion is people, contact, talking, finding out about their past life: who they are, what are their needs and how can I help them. I was really enjoying it.

But with Covid, life became a roller coaster. The new team was thrown in at the deep end. Colleagues who only joined in February pretty much hit the ground running.

We were taken off patient-facing work and shielded in a small office away from the main hospice, as three of the eight of us have long term health conditions. Being quite isolated like that was really hard. 

We were the interface with patients. The phone was red hot all day. There were days when I wobbled in tears because it was very stressful.

The number of referrals we were getting was just skyrocketing and all our patients were out there frightened, not knowing what was going on. We were sometimes the only people they could get hold of. It was a huge responsibility and challenge for a new team.

I think we’ve done a brilliant job really, considering what we’ve been up against. But I like the challenge!

Dawn Tuff – Clinical Sister Inpatient Unit

Dawn Tuff
Clinical Sister Inpatient Unit

The Wisdom Hospice Inpatient unit has 15 beds. My role includes staff management, liaising between the doctors and ward staff and making sure hospitals and community teams are aware of admissions as well as administering medication.

I also conduct family meetings.

Normally we have always had open visiting at the hospice and families would be able to stay overnight if their loved ones were poorly or their condition deteriorated. Obviously, with Covid all visiting stopped.

We set up a system to provide families with twice-daily updates but, whereas before you would have family members sitting with their loved ones, when people were dying that’s been a nursing role.

At times it’s been very distressing. You are holding the phone up to someone’s loved one as they take their last breath. You can hear the palpable distress of relatives on the phone who haven’t even been able to see them.

Throughout the shift we talk about how we are feeling, cry together, talk it through and try to make sense of it and of our own fears and anxieties as well.

A high percentage of the ward staff have had the virus. I was quite poorly myself – off for three weeks and then for another two with residual side effects. I found it really difficult. It made me realise I am not invincible physically and we all seem to think we are when we are nurses.

People who were quite strong characters have been really hit by it. But everyone has been supportive and I feel it has brought us all a lot closer together.

Now, visiting has resumed and we must adapt to the new normal. In the past we have had nice occasions for family relatives, weddings and stuff like that. It is ‘over and above’ and what I think palliative care is all about. It would be nice to get back to those days.

What can I do to help?

If you can, please support us, your donation could help us fund;

£10.00 – Could help fund a book and craft activity to use during a child’s listening support session who has a parent under Hospice Care

£25.00 – Could help fund an hour of care delivered by one of the hospice specialist palliative care nurses

£50.00 – Could help fund a counselling session for a patient or their loved one supporting them through a challenging time

£75.00 – Could help fund a home visit with a specialist nurse, physiotherapist or paramedic

£100.00 – Could help fund a lockbox to keep a syringe driver safe and secure when it is being used by a patient

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