Our front line nurses go the extra mile

(Southern Health News, Autumn 2020)

Patients have described them as ‘braver than brave’. They are the Hospital @ Home Service nurses, who cared for COVID-19 patients in their homes and at the Marion Holiday Park (which hosted self-isolating patients unable to reside in their homes) during the height of the pandemic.

“In the beginning, it was very daunting,” concedes Barbara Farrelly, Advanced Nurse Unit Manager of SALHN’s Hospital @ Home Service.

“We were all still learning about the virus and its impact, and the news coming out of Europe in the early days was frightening. But we stayed calm and worked closely with the SALHN Incident Management Team (IMT) to develop clinical management pathways to ensure we had a consistent approach to the treatment and care of our patients – and our own safety.

“We followed strict standards of care and personal protection and that feeling of anxiety eased over time.”

Barbara said turning up at patients’ homes donned in full personal protective equipment (PPE) was a “very different experience” – but it helped ease any anxiety felt by nursing staff and their patients.

“Patients were very anxious, particularly in the early days, and had many questions. So it was important that we knew as much as we could about the virus so we could answer their questions and allay their fears.”

Barbara said the Hospital @ Home effort was very much a team effort during the height of the pandemic. “We worked closely with the SALHN Infectious Diseases team, Nursing and Patient Services and our designated Registered Medical Officers. The Centre for Nursing and Midwifery Education and Research also assisted with daily phone assessments and the FMC COVID-19 testing clinic supported us as a drop-off point for all things infectious, including waste, scrubs and laboratory specimens.”

Tania Palmer was the first Registered Nurse with the Hospital @ Home program to visit a COVID-19 patient at home. “That first day was quite daunting for me. I had to prepare myself mentally for the visit, but we had all the right equipment and procedures in place and the visit went really well.”

“Our patients knew that we were putting ourselves at risk by going to their homes, and honestly, I think if they could have hugged us, they would have!

“I’ve never felt prouder to be a nurse, and I feel so grateful that I have been able to do this.”

Jarrod was cared for by the Hospital @ Home team and said they were ‘amazing’.

Jarrod initially had mild symptoms of COVID-19, but on day nine, his chest became heavy and he found it hard to breathe.

“That was a bit scary. It makes you understand that there’s a point where things can go bad for a lot of people. But (Hospital @ Home) were great; they came straight out to make sure I was ok.

“The nurses were amazing…they were friendly, reassuring and really cared.

 “They were the only people I saw for three weeks so they were really good for my mental health too.”

At the time of going to print, the Hospital @ Home service had discharged its final patient who had tested positive for COVID-19. “It’s a significant milestone and on behalf of us all, I thank the Hospital @ Home Service. They are an amazing team,” said Dr Diana Lawrence, SALHN's Executive Director of Medical Services.