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My day as a Health Care Assistant on the IPU

My day-to-day role at Thames Hospice is HR Director but on Friday 10th June I arrived at Pine Lodge ready to start my early shift as an HCA, shadowing Elaine Zanini, one of our Senior Health Care Assistants. Elaine had made sure I was prepped and ready for a day of hard work and I knew I was in good hands.

The day started off with the handover from the night shift. The staff talked us through the patients’ current condition and how the night shift had gone. Then the nurse in charge told us whether we were on the Red or Green team and I was ready to start my day. The first job of the day was to serve breakfast to all of our patients. After breakfast, we bathed one of the patients, a 91 year old lady, in one of the Jacuzzi baths on the IPU. I will always remember this lady’s smile as she sat amongst the ever growing mountain of suds. She absolutely loved it.

For the rest of the shift, my duties were making cups of tea for relatives and visitors, changing beds, replenishing the linen cupboards and helping to serve the lunch. I did a lot of walking. After lunch, I helped bathe another patient. This lady had been reluctant to let anyone but her husband provide any personal care for her, but she now felt comfortable enough to let Elaine and Beckie (another HCA) help her. This was very pleasing for us and showed the trust that our patients have in our care.

I finished my shift at 3pm and I gave Elaine a massive hug to say thank you. She was just about to go on leave for two weeks and I am sure she probably needed it! After thanking the rest of the team, I was ready to go home. I felt exhausted!

But I felt a lot of other things too. I felt sad that I had spent the day with patients who were ill and probably wouldn’t get better and I had heard some very sad stories unfolding.

I also felt incredibly proud. Proud of our team of medical staff who work 7 days a week, 24 hours a day to provide fantastic care, compassion and professional expertise to our patients. There is no hospital-like timetable in our IPU – when a patient would like something to eat or drink, a bath, or a laugh and a chat, the answer is always yes. I felt humbled by how hard our IPU staff work and how they always maintain a smile and a cheery voice.

Why did I want to spend a day as an HCA? I could give a real “management” answer about wanting to spend a day on the front line, to support our staff and part of that is true. But I also wanted to do it for me. I wanted to understand more of what we do and why it makes such a difference. And I have now achieved that.

Since this experience my colleagues have asked me. Did I find it insightful? Did I learn new things? Am I proud to work for Thames Hospice? Do I understand more of what our teams do every day? Has it motivated me more in my role? The answer to all those is yes.

Would I do it again? Perhaps. Am I pleased I did it? Absolutely.

Jackie Geeson

HR Director