Coronavirus: Plenty of PPE, but no hugs - what it's like working as a Whitby District Nurse

A District Nurse has given Whitby Gazette readers a glimpse of what it's like to work on the Covid-19 frontline.

Wednesday, 6th May 2020, 4:33 pm
Updated Wednesday, 6th May 2020, 4:34 pm
Gemma Hancock

Gemma Hancock has been a qualified nurse for 25 years. She is the Clinical Lead District Nurse with the Neighbourhood Care Service where she is in charge of a team of 20 nurses, both registered and unregistered, who cover the five Whitby practices from Egton and Danby through to Staithes and Robin Hoods Bay.

Gemma, 50, took over the role as clinical lead in July last year. As a tissue viability and wound care specialist she plays a strong role in the community team, reviewing cases such as pressure sores, leg ulcers, lymphedema, chronic edema. diabetic foot, in fact, anything weird and wonderful.

She first decided to become a nurse over 40 years ago, she said: “When I was a little girl there was a magazine called Twinkle, and in that magazine there was Nurse Nancy who used to put the stuffing back into teddy bears. From that day on there was nothing else I wanted to be.”

Whitby District Nurses

Gemma, who lives in Pickering, said there has been a number of positives to come out of the changes in working necessitated by the virus. These include increased communication and support between the CCG, GPs, care homes and care agencies who have been checking in and supporting each other.

Much of the regular workload hasn’t changed, people still require end of life care and teams are still going into care homes every day. Gemma said: “We are working day in and day out recognising symptoms and escalating where we need to.”

The service has adjusted the way it operates, reducing the number of different staff who go into each home to maintain as low a footprint as possible.

Nurses check that each visit is essential, if it can be managed another way, such as giving a staff member at a care home training in how to manage a condition, they do, but of course, whenever they are needed, they go.

Gemma said that they have never had a problem with PPE and certainly don’t feel insecure. Humber Teaching NHS Foundation trust have steered the guidance for PPE and a number of things have been donated by the people of Whitby.

Gemma said: “Local people have been making face masks and visors, making cupcakes and donating hand cream. Humber sent us all a lovely wellbeing bag and we have loads of free food. The Blitz have been brilliant supporting staff with free lunches.

“Staff are working really hard, observing social distancing in the office. It’s hard. The flame of Covid is always burning away, but the staff are alright, we can’t hug each other and I miss that, but we’re a verbal bunch and we’re there to check on each other. I’m just really proud of everyone being so good.”

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