In the midst of the Coronavirus pandemic, we were clapping for them, now we just take them for granted, or do we?
Last week I had to attend hospital for elective surgery. Firstly, let me say that I fully appreciate how fortunate I was, to be able to have my procedure carried out, waiting lists are generally longer now, I was one of the lucky ones. I therefore wanted to share my experiences of that day.
Having had a Covid test a few days before surgery, I arrived bright and early at 7am. There was a security guard at the entrance informing everyone that we had to change our masks for the ones that were available at the entrance. Not a big deal but for some reason I found it very irritating, having actually remembered to bring and wear my own. However, he was very polite and I gave myself a good talking to. I then had to wait outside the day surgery unit with around 25 other, reasonably nervous people, some with the partners or friends to support them. NHS staff where already at the entrance calling names and directing people where they needed to go. They also had to explain that due to Covid regulations, we had to go in by ourselves, no support allowed. This was all done in a very professional and friendly manner. I am not a morning person, so I am always in awe of those that are, or can at least pretend to be.
I was then directed to my bay, where I was told to wait for further instructions. I am not a Health Care Professional, so please forgive me if I don’t use the correct title for the staff. The nurse in charge then came over to explain that I was second in the queue and the anesthetist and surgeon would be along shortly to go through the plan of action. They arrived within twenty minutes, looked at my medical history, appreciated that I had experience of this surgery already and quickly but thoroughly went through the process to ensure I was ‘happy’. From my bay I could see that others were being seen in the same way.
A little later I was informed the surgeon was running ahead of schedule and it was time. A porter arrived with a wheelchair and a blanket, the windows were open in all the corridors to get rid of any Covid germs, hence the blanket, it was a little chilly. During the journey to theatre the porter could not have been any friendlier, just chatting and trying to put me at ease. We arrived at theatre and had to wait outside the swing doors until the theatre staff were ready. Now I hate this bit, there are cupboards full of drugs and medical kit and you can hear the theatre staff through the doors, but the porter was great, she just kept chatting away trying to distract me.
The anesthetist then arrives to walk me through to the theatre itself. It is somewhat like you are in an episode of Casualty, bright lights and staff in their gowns. Again, the anesthetist put me at ease, got the cannula in my hand first time and then injected something ‘to get me in the mood’. I suddenly felt remarkably calm and then I was asleep.
I woke up around an hour later back in my own bay, where I started. It was the same nurse in charge and another nurse monitoring the patients, taking blood pressure and other observations on a regular basis. I felt very safe and cared for and was even offered a sandwich! With nothing to do until I was discharged, I was able to observe the staff at work and it was then I realized how fortunate we are to have an NHS and the staff within it. The nurse in charge hadn’t had a break since she started, it was now afternoon. However, she wasn’t unhappy, she made sure that all the patients were cared for and all the other staff had their breaks. Again, I’m no HCP but it felt that she took full responsibility for all the patients and it was her job to ensure we received the best care possible. If that meant she missed or delayed her break, so be it. A few hours later I was discharged, escorted to the entrance and home I went.
It wasn’t until the following day, recovering at home that I appreciated how fortunate we are to have an NHS. Every single member of staff that I encountered that day was amazing, even the security guard at the main entrance! It was obvious they were short staffed but the nurse in charge, ensured that it didn’t impact on the patients. She was friendly and professional throughout, now I’m sure she was legally entitled to a break and could have spoken to her superior to get one, but she had ownership of the ward and everything that went on in it. She put the patients front and center of everything that was done that day, ensuring the care was as good as it possibly could be.
We all know that the NHS is far from perfect, not everyone may get the experience I received. Waiting lists are longer than ideal, often departments are short staffed, most staff are not on huge wages (maybe not even enough for the jobs they do) but despite this they do an amazing job. They care for us, always, and perhaps the majority of us do not appreciate this enough, we just assume that when we are ill, we will be treated appropriately and cared for. Just because we no longer clap, Covid admissions are low and the NHS isn’t in the headlines every day, we should not forget what an amazing job they do. I will always be thankful for the care they have given me and we should all be thankful the NHS is there for us. It’s not perfect, but it’s ours.