Keep on Keeping on | Te Whatu Ora - Te Tai Tokerau

Keep on Keeping on

While the majority of New Zealanders have been safely living and working from home in their bubble during Lockdown, in Whangarei Hospital's Medical Ward, they have been navigating their way through maintaining business as usual with coping with scenarios unique to the pandemic. 

Ward 14 clinical nurse manager Joanne Leslie said initially her team felt quite a bit of angst around COVID-19 as they prepared for the unknown and she spent quite some time reassuring them they would be safe.

When the Ward was eerily quiet for the first two weeks of the pandemic, they put it down to people thinking they had to stay away in case they caught COVID-19 or not wanting to overwhelm the hospital with their illnesses. Joanne said it felt like the tide had gone out, and they were waiting for a Tsunami to hit.  

It did, and ever since they have been at capacity with almost 80 percent of the patients' elderly.

Registered nurse (RN) Kristie-Eve Henwood said because the older members of the community knew they were vulnerable, a lot cancelled carer support and stopped picking up essential medication out of fear of leaving their home and catching the virus.

According to RN Jo Yuretich, the biggest issue they face now on the Ward with these patients is their sense of isolation because during Alert Level 4 and 3 visiting is restricted.

"We have some really sad, frightened patients who we are spending a lot of time reassuring and settling their fear. You feel this sense of, 'please get it right', so people can have their visitors again," said Jo.

Patients are also staying in the Ward longer than usual because families are hesitant to send them home if they don't have their regular support networks available. 

Both Kristie-Eve and Jo said they feel pressure as nurses to be role models and to keep well because if they get sick, they not only take it home to their bubble, but their whole Ward would have to close. 

That pressure is something Joanne works hard to support her team with. At the start, she said she knew she wasn't going to be able to control everything – but her goal was to maintain her integrity and make sure her team were looked after.

When staff from Ward 12 joined Ward 14, Joanne said their work-family grew, but a group of their nurses were redeployed for the duration of the pandemic, which is a challenge that they've risen too.

Joanne said it had been a juggle managing more people but commends her team for being so welcoming and Ward 12s team for being flexible and making the most of the environment.

"We take it day by day and are like a big family where everyone's supportive of each other and as a whole, the entire team have all got on with their jobs, which I'm proud of.

“But, it's been trying on some of them who have young families or have to tag-team with their partners who are also essential workers, we try to accommodate this with moving shifts and times, so we don't exhaust them, and they can still have family time.  

"Some of our team also have family overseas, and I know that they are worried and that adds a layer of stress to their lives. But we also have some lovely things to look forward to celebrating after Lockdown, between Ward 12 and Ward 14 we've had four babies arrive over the last few weeks."

Joanne spends a lot of her time checking in on everyone and trying to balance everything out.  

"Ward 14 has a large allied health team that has been amazing in not only continuing their roles but supporting each other and going above and beyond for their patients. Everyone is learning to do things differently and still achieve the goals of their jobs."

"We're so accommodating which I see it as a compliment, but we do want to keep our ward family together and look after each other."

The constant daily changes have taken some keeping up with especially after a few days off, which is why communication is so important.

RN Ndaba Tshuma said he has felt confident throughout the pandemic because Joanne's door is always open if there is an issue. He has appreciated the organisational communication, including the emails from chief executive Dr Nick Chamberlain as it makes him feel everything is been done appropriately. 

Joanne is incredibly proud of how her team have grown over the last five weeks - becoming jacks of all trades and making the effort to spend more time and do little extras for their patients.

"We've made some effective changes and its highlighted staff who have stepped up and shown leadership. So there have been lots of positives.

"We have all learnt a lot, including what happens in a pandemic, which has been a good exercise. However, not one I want to repeat for a while."





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