COVID-19: nurses find ways to connect with patients despite PPE and social distancing

Trusts are using innovative methods to humanise care during the pandemic

Queen Elizabeth Hospital NHS Foundation Trust nurses Claire Kent and Karon Strong and their ward's staff identifier board

Identification boards for staff whose face is covered by personal protective equipment (PPE) is an innovation being rolled out at one trust during the COVID-19 pandemic. Another trust has introduced ways to help patients keep in touch with loved ones during lockdown.

PPE can heighten patients’ fears and feelings of isolation

Queen Elizabeth Hospital NHS Foundation Trust’s head of staff engagement Amanda-Jane Weir said patients being cared for by healthcare staff in PPE could feel isolated.  

‘It’s very daunting for those patients. All they see from when they come through the doors is people coming to them wearing PPE. They already feel vulnerable and afraid, and PPE takes away the humanity,’ she said.

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To help combat this, Ms Weir said the trust has placed photographs of its staff on a board in the wards to help patients identify with the person behind the mask.

Putting a face and a name to healthcare staff

‘When staff introduce themselves, they point to the board and say: “This is me, this is who you are talking to and I’m looking after you today”.’

Another trust has introduced a new role to aid communication between patients and their loved ones while social distancing measures prevent visits.

Updating families on a patient’s condition

Southport and Ormskirk Hospital NHS Trust in Merseyside has redeployed allied health professionals in its hospitals to be liaison officers for families, giving daily updates on a patient’s progress.

The service runs seven days a week, with the trust saying the new role will ease pressure on nurses.

The trust’s director of nursing, midwifery and therapies Bridget Lees said: ‘This is a difficult time for patients and families as we have to restrict visiting.

‘That’s why we’re making this special effort to keep families in touch with their loved ones and make their hospital stay as pleasant as possible.’

Video call devices help people stay in touch 

In another attempt to help people stay in touch with their families during the crisis, social media company Facebook is giving 2,050 video call devices to hospitals, care homes, hospices, inpatient learning disability and autism units.

NHS England’s digital health and social care transformation programme NHSX confirmed that the devices will be sent to settings that have WiFi connectivity and are able to ensure privacy.

It is also exploring connectivity options for care homes without WiFi, such as using 4G hotspots or data-enabled tablets.

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