Nurse Sian talks about her passion for elderly care and opens up about caring for Covid patients
Sian User always wanted to be a nurse and at 18 years old fulfilled that ambition.
She’s now the ward manager of a 26 bed elderly care unit at North Tyneside hospital managing a team of 30 nurses and other healthcare professionals.
“Elderly care was always where I wanted to be. It’s a complex part of the NHS but I really enjoy helping patients and pulling together that puzzle to meet their needs.
“It can be very challenging because we have a mix of medical and non-medical conditions to manage every day on the ward,” she explains.
Since joining Northumbria Healthcare in 2006 much of her work has been around changing and improving the environment on the ward, but it’s also about integration to ensure that all the different professions are working together to support patients.
The team are currently developing an outside area to become a garden for patients which will help with rehabilitation and provide a really nice space for relaxation and recovery. There is also increasing evidence that outdoor spaces can aid recovery and help improve mental health.
In elderly care there’s now a huge focus on getting people out of hospital as quickly as possible so that patients can get back home where they are most comfortable. This is made possible using a whole team approach that includes not just doctors and nurses but also physios, occupational therapists, pharmacists and social workers.
Over the years, as people start to live longer, Sian has seen the average age of patients in her care increase so while most are in their eighties she regularly sees people in their nineties or even a hundred years old.
As well as medical issues and post-surgical recovery the ward also sees patients who may have dementia or delirium which can lead to patients and relatives becoming very upset.
A typical day will mean providing care for patients, managing the nursing team, developing the service and making sure that everyone is safe.
However, 2020 has been far from typical for her and the team because ward 12 became the designated Covid ward for North Tyneside at the start of the Pandemic.
From April all of the patients under her care were Covid positive which represented a huge change for the whole team.
“We were managing 20 patients at any one time but I’m so proud of how the team coped and the care we were able to provide under the most challenging of circumstances.
“There were lots of new challenges such as doing our jobs in full PPE but the biggest thing was just managing the anxiety and worry for the whole team. It was something really out of the ordinary and of course was very frightening at times.
“Where we had patient deaths it was very traumatic for everyone but we’ve had lots of psychological and practical support from the Trust and feel well prepared for whatever comes next.
“The thing I’ll remember most about 2020 will be how well the team worked together to look after our patients and never forgetting that they were someone’s father or mother or grandparent.
“It makes me very emotional and proud to think back on what we delivered during those times”