District nurse appeals for understanding amid crisis

District nurse appeals for understanding amid crisis

25 March 2020

A DISTRICT nurse has called for the community to be understanding and supportive as she and her colleagues work to maintain nursing services throughout the COVID-19 lockdown.

Sister Pauline McVeigh, from Seaforde, has been a district nurse for 12 years and covers the Clough, Dundrum and Ballynahinch area. 

The mother-of-two says that the role of her and her colleagues is to ensure that their service is maintained throughout the crisis.

Sister McVeigh said she and her colleagues were facing “unprecedented circumstances”, but would continue to provide a 24-hour service to patients.

“We are the frontline in the community. We are all doing the best we can to make sure we are seeing the patients that need to be seen,” she said. “Please understand that we are all doing our best.

“Our role is to support people at home where they want to be and to keep them out of hospital, providing 24 hour care — that’s always our aim despite COVID-19. 

“At the moment we are seeing our normal patients but they can be susceptible to the virus, particularly if they have family members who have been travelling. We have to do a risk assessment for each patient before we go in to make sure that we have on the appropriate PPE [personal protection equipment of gloves, apron and mask].”.

Nursing for 18 years, Sister McVeigh said that as a district nurse she can see to up to 15 patients a day and often does a lot of mileage as she covers a rural area.

While the health service is bracing itself for an upsurge over the next three to four weeks of affected patients, Sister McVeigh believes that district nurses will not be redeployed into hospitals.

She said: “District nurses will be kept in the community as they are providing care other than for COVID-19, attending patients who are at end of life, have palliative needs and dependent on medication daily.

“We are in unprecedented circumstances for the whole of the community. The South Eastern Health and Social Care Trust is working under the guidance of the Department of Health and the Public Health Agency and we are trying where possible to reduce the footfall into patient’s homes.

“A family member, who is not normally home but is now due to the circumstances, maybe can step up to give insulin or provide wound care under our guidance.”

She stressed: “We will not leave anyone unsupported and we are doing our utmost to keep ourselves safe by wearing appropriate PPE to protect our patients as well.”

Sister McVeigh said she believed that there was adequate supply of PPE to protect nurses and patients alike.

“We do have enough and the Trust is working very hard to order more and to ensure that we have enough equipment,” added Sister McVeigh.

“We don’t think there will not be enough and a lot of local businesses have offered some supplies — there’s a real sense of community and everyone pulling together.”

Sister McVeigh made her plea in the light of the expected upsurge of COVID-19 patients and colleagues reporting receiving some verbal abuse from people for wearing uniforms in public.

“Can I just remind the public that district nurses do need to continue to wear their uniform,” said Sister McVeigh.

“Our uniforms are as much to protect us as patients. I think there is some misconception that we have just come out of a ward and are spreading the virus in the community. However, we understand that people are frightened.”

In addition to the wearing of PPE when dealing with patients, Sister McVeigh stressed that in line with infection control policies, she and her colleagues washed their uniforms each night and wore fresh ones each day.

She added: “We all want to minimise risk. The overriding message to everyone is to remember hand hygiene at all costs and wash your hands regularly.”