Background The hospice provides inpatient, outpatient and community services including a Continuing Healthcare (CHC) virtual ward. During COVID-19 the hospice suffered clinical staffing issues with immune-compromised staff isolating and volunteers unable to attend, while income-generation departments were furloughed. CHC beds were increased by 10% to facilitate hospital discharges.
Aims To enable the community team to continue to support palliative patients in their own homes and allow prompt discharge of hospital patients.
Method All furloughed staff were contacted and offered the opportunity to support the clinical teams. This included out-patient clinical staff and non-clinical staff. The education department delivered intensive training sessions including clinical mandatory training and core personal care skills leading to the role of Clinical Support Worker (CSW). However, working a trial shift for some proved too demanding emotionally, psychologically, or physically.
Results Caring for COVID-19 positive patients had a large psychological impact on the team. However, no COVID-19 transfer was identified from a patient or between colleagues. An occupational therapist assigned to the team empowered staff to utilise equipment to improve patient care. CSWs also supported other departments in-between with administration tasks where possible. The CSWs were included in all patient discussions and attended handovers, team meetings and were offered clinical supervision/debrief sessions.
Conclusion The community team continued to provide high-quality palliative care services as contracted even through the fast-paced changes. Patients and their carers reported feeling supported. The ‘walls’ around different hospice teams began to disintegrate with an appreciation of how the teams are all working to meet the shared aims of excellent patient-centred care. The pandemic has united the community team and forged strong links with other hospice teams. The CSWs developed their care and communication skills and the whole team have shown themselves to be non-judgemental, enthusiastic, and proud to serve their community.
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