The view from the corridor

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The following blog is from LfE fellow, Alison Jones.  Alison’s professional role has changed significantly during the pandemic, and here are her reflections on her recent experiences:

 

One of the central tenets of Appreciative Inquiry is the importance of storytelling or the power of narrative. MariaSirois said in her DLCCenterforAI webinar that if we talk authentically about how we have lived events, our story will resonate with someone, somewhere and as a consequence meaning will be added to both experiences. This story was part of my #COVID19 experience:

I have a background in adult ICU nursing but haven’t been registered with the NMC for many years. With the onset of the pandemic my greatest wish was to regain registration and join my colleagues on the ‘front line’ to help ‘fight’ this dreadful virus (the language of war we so easily adopt in these scenarios). It soon became clear that I had been away from the bedside too long to qualify for expedited re-registration; I was deeply disappointed and also experienced a strong sense of guilt at not contributing in the way I felt I should.

And so my role during COVID19 became that of ‘clean runner’ outside the intensive care unit at the children’s hospital where a new zone was created: an area made necessary by COVID19 isolation procedures. In this space, along with numerous hand sanitizers and the sequential PPE donning stations (first a gown, next a mask, then goggles, visor and finally gloves) a new team convened whom I shall call the Corridor Crew!

Once a nurse is in PPE and through the unit doors, s/he cannot come and go from the patient’s bedside out to store rooms and facilities beyond the isolation area. So they need ‘runners’. Runners for supplies – linen and IV fluids, blood products and medicines, ventilators and feed pumps; send swabs and specimens, bring tubes and wires.

In my role as a clean corridor runner I have been struck by the variety of people and emotions and responses passing through and gained a new perspective on this COVID experience: the view from the corridor:

Mums

Some in wheelchairs hours after an emergency C-section, some beginning to establish a routine – new normal. Post-partum people trying to heal and bear milk (often difficult enough at home with a healthy baby) now having to navigate the land of critical care, separation from baby, family, other children maybe … and carers in full PPE another type of separateness. I see in them dependency, vulnerability, shock and disbelief – how on earth did I get here? 3 weeks ago I was a chief exec/happy-go-lucky 17 year old/ran my own business/had all my ducks in a row.

But the thing I remember most is what they said to me in that corridor: ‘I have never met so many lovely people in one place’ and, tearfully, ‘you are all so kind, I can’t thank you enough’

Dads

Red-eyed dads displaying anguish, fear and frustration. Not in an aggressive way, although I know that happens too, but in a keyed-up, dumbed down sort of desperation. Through no fault of their own they are facing their greatest challenge; not only does their child require intensive care, but the world is in lockdown, global pandemic. Visiting is restricted, medical teams are cloaked in PPE and of all things, touch is prohibited. We witnessed brave but ever so slightly broken young dads walk past whilst we simultaneously adhered to social distancing and resisted the most natural instinct to give physical reassurance. Caring at arms length takes its toll on all of us.

Seeing, thinking, feeling these things emboldened me to enquire – how are things today? (eye contact, be brave, the answer might be tough to hear but it’s his answer and this is how we must express our love in the time of COVID).

The Day Shift

Mindful, rehearsed, #weareinthistogether. As they calmly progress through the donning stations I hear breathing exercises, the odd mantra and, whenever I ask ‘Are you hydrated? Feeling OK? Ready?’, ‘As I’ll ever be! Oh yes! Absolutely!’ come the replies. Thanks to stellar leadership from the ICUnurse management team we are as prepared as we can be for the daily evolution of the COVID19 response.

Throughout the shift they appear at the unit entrance often with gloved hands folded, steady eye contact and clear articulation through the mask: ‘Could I please have the special feed for Sally Morris, the blue thingy that adds a neb to the vent, some Micropore and a small sharps bin. The nurse next to me needs a temp module for the Philips monitor and 2 Weetabix cos her patient has kept free fluids down for 4 hours. I’ll come back for them, thank you so much’. They turn on their heels, speed walking back to their patient so they don’t waste a minute of care-giving time.

Short, frequently interrupted conversations punctuate the clean corridor day. Full of intimate details shared now like they never would be on a normal office day. Brief exchanges spanning the whole of our current existence: the grey roots showing in our hair (reframe: appreciation of hairdressing as a craft), supermarket queues (reframe: how lucky are we to live in a land of plenty), Generation C19 – adolescents with no exams and no motivation, the death of a neighbour (oh god, I’m so sorry) and dad’s had surgery so urgent not even COVID19 could stop it …nurses have lives too.

To The Corridor Crew:

27,000 steps today. We bring our whole selves to the job at hand – manning the corridor can be a fetch and carry task or an observing, serving, providing, learning experience

I know more about you now than I did before [Simon/Esther/John/Jen]

More unites us than divides us [tech/stores/pharmacy/labs/housekeepers/admin]

(Corridor) Music soothes, lightens, connects and heals

Thanks for the opportunity

So often we dismiss the value of our own stories and dwell on what we are not.We must cultivate an appreciation of who we are and the stories we have lived; show up to the situation as we can and bring our whole selves to the task. And the best stories end with an invitation into the next chapter so, when you tell your stories of what happened during COVID19, enrich them with how it made you feel, who or what inspired you and what good has or could come of the experience.

Alison Jones

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