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Maintaining humanity in a time of crisis: the new normal

Bev Fitzsimons 14 April 2020

With several of our Sweeney projects on hold, Bev Fitzsimons writes about how a digital check in enabled some of our collaborative partners to continue to support one another – and provide a small dose of normality in strange times.

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Like everyone else, we at the Point of Care Foundation have been staggered by the speed of events with the Covid-19 virus, and the strange new realities of everyday life that have come about so quickly.

What we do doesn’t begin to compare with the experiences of front-line staff who are working tirelessly to look after sick patients, as well as all the essential work behind the scenes that goes on to keep people safe, get people the treatment they need, and take care of worried families. All we can do is try to respond to events in a way that is supportive and minimises stress and pressure on the people we work with in NHS and other organisations.

We have been hearing about the amazing commitment of staff, going above and beyond in their care for patients, families and their colleagues. The small random acts of kindness and support that people are offering; the medical students asking, “how can we help?”; the most senior staff helping to clean and disinfect ward areas; and countless other examples. When this is all over, we would do well to remember the inherent humanity that has been on display, and ask ourselves, if we can do this during a crisis, what gets in the way in ordinary times?

One thing we have heard from colleagues is how the occasional dose of normality can provide a little relief.

We held a virtual catch up recently, with teams that are participating with our Sweeney children’s collaborative, on a day we had been scheduled to spend together at a learning event at Alder Hey in Liverpool. It was an opportunity for us to thank and appreciate those teams for the work they are doing day to day, and an opportunity for us all to check in with each other and find out how everyone was doing. I was humbled by the fact that representatives from all the participating teams took part. It was wonderful to hear teams’ determination that the work they had done so far, to understand the experience of children and families using their services, would not be lost. There was an appetite from some colleagues to continue to learn some of the methods we use and continue to be in touch with each other as a community of practice. We are offering as much as we can online to those who want to continue to access our programmes.

While we all accept that for the moment, many improvement projects are necessarily on hold, as individuals are flat-out providing care, re-deployed, or self-isolating, there will come a time when we are out the other side, and there will be a ‘new normal’. The experiences of staff, patients and families will always be important, and this work will continue – though perhaps differently, and perhaps not for a while.

For now, our message about humanising healthcare remains as important as ever. Anything at a time like this that supports staff to support each other has got to be worth it.