Making a difference on Charles Pannett ward

Esme Blyth is the lead nurse for general and vascular surgery at the Trust. She shares her praise for teams adapting to life on newly-created coronavirus cohort wards.

Charles Pannett ward at St Mary’s Hospital is normally an inpatient ward for colorectal and general surgery. But on 19 March, it became the first covid-19 cohort ward in the general and vascular surgery directorate.

When it became clear we would need to become a coronavirus cohort ward it made many of our teams nervous. They were worried about the unpredictability of the virus, the impact it may have on their health and the health of their loved ones. It was an anxious time for all staff, as we were changing the group of patients we routinely have cared for.

One of the biggest challenges for the teams was changing from an acute surgery speciality to caring for elderly patients who required an increased level of support with activities of daily living. Another challenge has been supporting patients and relatives despite visiting restrictions.

A sense of duty

Despite their nerves, our teams have a sense of duty that has sustained them throughout this period. It has not been an easy journey – it has been emotionally and physically draining. The public support and team spirit have lifted our spirits and helped us remember what we come to work every day to do. We’re very proud to serve our country by working for the NHS – it’s what we’ve trained to do, and we will always be there at the point of need.

We’ve had to change the way we work, and everyone has adapted their job roles to fit with the needs of our patients, from our medical teams undertaking virtual board rounds to utilising our volunteers to help provide care. While every single member of the Charles Pannett team deserves individual recognition there have been a few individuals who have really displayed our Trust values and supported the teams.

Manuela is our ward hostess and at the start of our journey was particularly anxious about working in a cohort ward and how this would impact her. However, our teams have supported her daily and ensured that she was made to feel part of our team, which helped her confidence grow. Manuela now arrives on the ward everyday with an infectious smile and is a really happy soul to have on the ward. I’m so proud of how she has taken on this challenge and become a really positive presence on the ward.

We’ve also had great support from Nigel, our fantastic ward helper, who has absolutely inspired all of us every day. From day one, Nigel has shown he was here to help. His can-do attitude has been a great support to the team – in particular Patsy, our ward housekeeper.

John, who supports the Trust’s linen team, has also been a great support to all staff on the eighth floor, to ensure they all have scrubs to wear when entering a cohort ward. John is always smiling and really helps us out. He goes out of his way to come in early every day to make sure that staff can access scrubs.

Providing patient-centred care

I want to pay special mention to the nursing teams on Charles Pannett. The nurses spend such a long time in the environment, and despite all of the worries they had, they really have shown what it means to be a nurse. They are compassionate, caring and selfless. They give their all to their patients and look after each other as a team. From the first day we opened as a cohort ward they have embraced their new working environment and been flexible to the needs of the service. I’m in total admiration of the nurses and can’t thank them enough for everything they have done.

The team on Charles Pannett have shown that despite all uncertainty of the virus and the challenges we’re faced with, they can still provide patient-centred care to an exceptionally high standard. This is credit to the ward leadership by matron Dolores Parr. Every day the teams have been supported by her visible presence at the bedside. Dolores really does have the best interests of her patients and staff at the centre of everything she does, which is demonstrated by her team’s amazing work daily.

Celebrating good news

We’ve had some really great days on the ward despite these challenges. One of the best days on the ward was the day the team was able to discharge 86-year-old Jack home from hospital. He came to Charles Pannett with pneumonia, having tested positive for coronavirus. He deteriorated and became so unwell we worried he would not recover. We made the decision to begin supportive care. However, within a few days of making this decision, Jack started to improve. After over two weeks on our ward, we were able to safely discharge him home. The whole team wanted to celebrate this milestone, and Jack’s family very kindly consented. We lined up to give him a proper send off. His smile touched the hearts of the whole multidisciplinary team on the ward and there were tears of joy – be sure to watch the video. Days like that one remind us of the difference we’re able to make in spite of all the challenges we face right now.

Within the general and vascular surgery directorate Charles Pannett is one of two cohort wards and I’ve been really inspired by the way so many of our colleagues have risen to this occasion. Despite their own anxieties, staff have continued to go above and beyond for our patients every day. We cannot forget our other inpatient areas, such as Paterson and A8, who continue to deliver a high stand of patient care and work incredibly hard on a daily basis. It goes without saying that I think the world of all of the teams in our directorate and think that they all deserve to be celebrated. We can’t thank each and every one of them enough for their continued hard work during these difficult times.

Find out how you can support our staff and patients through Imperial Health Charity’s covid-19 relief fund.