My life as a children’s hospice nurse on the frontline during Covid…

By Emily McLaughlin, Nurse, Noah’s Ark Children’s Hospice

I’ve been working at The Ark since I left the NHS in late 2019 – a different era, almost! It’s the new children’s hospice building in North London. The setting (a 7.5-acre nature reserve in North London), the architecture and the positivity of the team meant that I was thrilled to join the charity just after The Ark opened. Little did I know of the maelstrom that 2020 would bring.

The charity’s aim was to slowly open the In-Patient Unit (IPU) throughout 2020, a phased approach with one low acuity child at a time until all policies and processes were firmly bedded in. Then Covid hit, the NHS called us up saying that the beds were urgently needed and within two weeks the Unit was up-and-running. We haven’t stopped since.

The most extraordinary thing for me about being on the frontline over the past months has been working with children at the very end of their lives. The Ark has exuded a wonderful familial warmth, even during these strange times, a point of difference that many families have noted from previous clinical settings that they’ve experienced; the difference exacerbated by the knowledge that hospitals are only allowing one person at a time to see patients. Providing a space where families can be together - and grieve together – is something that will never be taken away from them.

The experiences that I’ve had at Noah’s Ark have been both breath-taking and devastating, often concurrently. For example, the light and life of lockdown birthdays has been juxtaposed by the knowledge that these could be children’s final birthday parties.

It takes a truly strong nurse to work with sick and dying children – and sometimes children who have passed away – and their families. But we urgently need more Nurses and Carers. For many working in the NHS through the pandemic, now might be the moment to seize upon that chance to change.

As frontlines workers, normally we’ve got outlets to let off steam, be they friends, gyms, pubs etc. One of the most challenging things about lockdown on the frontline was having more work-related challenges than ever, but these outlets were summarily removed by restrictions. The team at Noah’s Ark is wonderful – a family to me – but we all need to let off steam sometimes, particularly when working in such a demanding setting. To have those taken away certainly added to the burden in early 2020.  

But the opportunities have certainly outweighed the challenges. Working in the NHS can be quite restrictive but at Noah’s Ark you can – and do - have a voice and you can go as far as you want in the organisation. The Director of Care herself joined the team a few years ago as a nurse and has progressed from there! As a Noah’s Ark Nurse, you’ll get thrown in the deep end, but you’ve just got to be willing to go for it. That ‘can do’ attitude, albeit clichéd, enables children’s hospice nurses to tread the fine line between creating astonishing moments that matter and utter devastation. There’s nothing else quite like it.

If you are interested in becoming a Nurse at Noah's Ark, click here to find out more


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