On the front line: Jill’s story

Many of Guy’s and St Thomas’ staff are having to cope with being redeployed to other areas of work. This is relieving the pressure on their colleagues in critical care but can take its toll. Dental Sister Jill Eastmond tells her story of being redeployed.

Whole new way of working

Early in the coronavirus outbreak, Jill was tasked with setting up a new service in just three days, as she explains:

“I was asked to set up and run a new outpatient service within a new directorate, working under a new management team in a different part of the hospital. I was given this task on a Thursday evening and had to have the clinic staffed, set up and ready to run on the Monday morning. I had to source and transport nurses and equipment to the new location as well as to meet my new line managers, agree a Standard Operating Procedure and carry out staff inductions.

“We were adjusting to so many new circumstances: the department, unfamiliar equipment, building a team, patients and their healthcare needs. We were supporting, amongst other conditions, patients who are undergoing dialysis, organ transplantation, cancer treatment; patients who were taking several drugs that need regular testing.

“We were working alongside many different specialities with many different needs, and we wanted to deliver the best care possible and ensure that patients felt safe, and that they understood the changes in place.”

Handling fear and family concerns

But the added pressure at work wasn’t Jill’s only concern:

“The biggest challenge I faced away from work was to ensure that my family knew that I was safe and well, that I was protected with sufficient PPE. Having a mum who is a retired nurse means that she was well aware of the many challenges I faced, and I had to reassure her throughout my redeployment.

“Away from work, once I had time to wind down a little, I would process the day and often replayed stressful events in my mind. Initially I found it hard to switch off each day. There was an inbuilt fear mainly because I felt that I was exposed to a virus that we knew so little about and I feared the worst every day for some time.”

Staff wellbeing support is making a big difference

Thanks to donations from our supporters, Guy’s and St Thomas’ has set up wellbeing zones and specialist psychological support. This is helping staff to cope with the mental and emotional challenges they face, as Jill discovered:

“The wellbeing support has made such a great difference. It means we can walk away from the stressful environment, and sit back and switch off for a minute. We are not used to working such long shifts, so having some time away from the department is really helping us.

“For me, visiting one of the wellbeing zones helps to relax my mind. I am very active but I want to maintain my mental health and wellbeing. The interaction from senior staff makes a difference, as it shows they care about our wellbeing. We have access to so much support, refreshments, and a listening ear when we need one.

“We now have a space to relax, read, to talk to colleagues. The wellbeing zones are invaluable.”

Uplifted by messages of support

While everyone at Guy’s and St Thomas is grateful for the donations that have helped to set up these vital wellbeing zones, Jill explains that public messages of support also make a huge difference to morale:

“I smile every time I see a ‘thank you NHS message’ anywhere I go. It means so much to know that there are so many people who are holding us up, keeping our spirits up and recognising the challenges we are having to overcome. Knowing that there is so much support keeps us going. I sincerely and wholeheartedly thank you all.”

Keep our NHS workers going

Many staff are still being redeployed, and any donation you make today will help to keep this vital wellbeing support going so they can cope with the added demands. This includes:

  • Making the wellbeing zones, which have been such a lifeline for staff, permanent across our hospitals.
  • Offering a comprehensive psychological and spiritual support package, designed to meet the needs of the diverse workforce. This will aid ongoing and long-term trauma recovery.
  • Ensuring that, at whatever time of day staff may be working, they have access to complimentary coffee, tea and healthy snacks to help them recharge, boost morale, and feel valued and appreciated.