Hospice in your local community

06 May 2020

As part of International Nurses Day, we caught up with Janet Kilfedder in her role as a Community Nurse Specialist to find out how things have changed, and to find out more about the rumour that she is also making scrubs for the Hospice!

Our Community Nurse Specialists visit patients in their own homes and assess their care needs. Our Community Nurses work closely with GPs and District Nurses to develop and manage care plans, provide expert advice on complex symptoms, medication, as well provide emotional and psychological support to the patient and their families. It takes a special person to be a Hospice Community Nurse.

We chatted as Janet was driving to a patient’s home for the final visit of the day.

How have things changed when you’re working in the community?

Well, our work pattern has somewhat changed since the COVID outbreak. Patients are having to deal with the apprehension of having someone come into their home at a time when they want to minimise unnecessary footfall.  Just because COVID is here we are very aware patients still need our services, and we are out and about, providing palliative care for patients and their families as abled and we will endeavour to do so.

There are also the practicalities of community care that have changed. The visits do take more time now. I have the boot of my car filled with PPE and before I go into a patient’s home I have to put on my protective equipment, gloves, apron, mask and goggles. I bring a black bag with me and leave it at the front door, so that when my visit is over, I take off all my equipment and safely place in the bag so that the family can then dispose of it in their rubbish bin, when safe to do so. The protective equipment is essential and gives you more reassurance, but it also poses a barrier between you and the patient, for instance, talking to a patient who is hard of hearing whilst wearing a mask and visor isn’t easy! I get comments about the PPE such as, ‘Dear love you, having to wear all that stuff’, so families appreciate the precautions we’re taking as well as our home visits.

Talking to you I feel that it’s very different from the IPU. In Somerton House the team are together as they work through COVID, but as a Community Nurse Specialist you are out on your own in your car visiting different homes. How does that feel?

I do feel a lot of apprehension, it is scary, you do think, as you leave your family in the morning of some of the risks that can arise in our role as Hospice Nurses. It’s quite lonely at times too, as we don`t have the same team or environment as the In-Patient Unit. But despite all I feel the day you can put you uniform on, even though its scrubs, and come to help patients and their families, to me that is a good day and why I am in the role I am in.  

So, what is the story about scrubs for Hospice?

One night I couldn’t sleep, just at the start of outbreak in Northern Ireland. There were so many changes in our day to day practices because of the potential COVID surge. It was all so new, no-one had faced this before, thoughts were racing through my mind about work.

I thought, well what can I do? The idea of making scrubs came to me because I grew up in a family where patching and dress making were very much a way of life. So, I thought this would be a way of helping support the organisation, colleagues as well as helping my elderly mum and mother in- law who were self isolating.  

My sister who is a GP had a pair of scrubs so I used those to make a pattern – I cut the pattern in plastic so it could be washed down to prevent any spread of infection. I made a few calls to very close friends who were very willing to come on board and from there it  really snowballed .  We’ve also been bowled over with the generosity of people, donations of materials coming from everywhere. One day I came home and there was a pile of material at my back door! It was very humbling to see the generosity of people - an ask was all it took.

I’ve been able to send about 50 sets of scrubs up to Somerton so far and it’s still growing every day. Some of the material has been very varied in colours, a bit like the rainbow that gives the symbol of hope in such uncertain times.