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24th December 2020

You can't give families a hug

Before Covid hit in March, Nicky Cooper had worked in SinglePoint for five years.

She had just started a nine-month developmental post to become a SinglePoint clinical nurse specialist (CNS) while she finished her prescribing module at the University of Essex.

Nicky Cooper


With Covid everything has changed for everybody. As nurses, we just adapt and get on with what we need to do and focus on the patient and the family. You can’t give families a hug and sometimes when families are standing there and you just think, you need a hug, you need a hug, and they are looking at you as if to say I need a hug, and you can’t do it and that’s heart-breaking. 

Or holding a patient’s hand… That’s a big part of the role, the non-verbal, and I’ve found that really difficult, even with your colleagues you can’t give a hug anymore if they are having a bad day. That’s impacted greatly on part of what we provide.

I was very excited about my new role, but suddenly I wasn’t able to go out with other SinglePoint CNSs on home visits to be able to get to grips with the role, because there were restrictions on how many people could go in, and two people was not the right thing to do for patients and for us. So I transferred to Hospice in the Home as a developmental community CNS, which is very different.

SinglePoint CNSs are rapid response; on the day visits, families in crisis, end of life. Hospice in the Home CNS role is to manage a caseload with regular contact with the same patient, building up rapport and trust with families.

It was a big shift from what I was doing before Covid, but you adapt and you’ve got to do what’s right for the patients and their families and St Helena Hospice. You need to be where it’s best to be.

Before the second lockdown in November and the latest Tier changes, I would go on home visits to new patients with complex needs. My family does worry when I go into people’s homes, absolutely, but we’d go in full PPE, and I think if we’re wearing all our protective equipment and adhering to good infection control precautions, we’re minimising the risk as much as possible. You can’t be scared, your focus is the patient and the family. You could overthink it and it wouldn’t be good for anyone.

It’s about being extra vigilant all the way through the pandemic and not putting the patient or yourself and family at risk. We do video or phone calling so hopefully patients don’t feel they have been abandoned and know we’re here for them. It’s really difficult because you want to go out and support them, especially if they are elderly.

It’s very different but I’ve embraced it and I love my job, I love supporting my patients and families.

I’ve done a lot of fundraising for St Helena; I raised £3000 last year for a raiser chair to help move uninjured patients who had fallen, which is great because prior to that they probably would have had to wait hours for an ambulance because they have to go to emergencies first. The thought of a palliative patient on the floor for that period of time spurred me on.

Three years ago I did the London Marathon walk, 26.2 miles, and raised a lot of money, so I’m a big advocate for St Helena Hospice and what we do for the community. The feedback we get is that people would be lost without us.

It’s such a privilege for people to let me, a stranger, into their homes at possibly the worst time of their life. Midwives say it’s a privilege to be there at the beginning, I say it’s a privilege to be there at the end. Being able to be part of making sure someone has the best death possible, is very rewarding.

We’ll get through this and the amazing people will get us through. Covid, as awful as it is, has certainly helped build relationships between teams you wouldn’t have worked with before. Everyone has pulled together and it’s brought everyone closer, but not physically!      

This story may not be published elsewhere without express permission from St Helena Hospice.


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