Shooing sheep off a farm track at night or getting stuck in the snow in the countryside are all in a day’s work for Ashlea Barnes who works as an out of hours district nurse at Northumbria Healthcare.
Our team covers a huge geographical patch right up to the border of Scotland, helping patients during the evening and night. We cover some of the remotest areas of England but also densely populated urban areas so we do see a really varied mix of patients.
The majority of my work is palliative care and the response time is one hour. Because of the distance and number of calls sometimes on a night shift, you can drive up to 400 miles.
I worked in a hospital for 10 years but I’ve always had a passion for helping palliative patients ever since I was a student. We do pretty much everything that would happen in a hospital but in the home and lots of it is about preventing hospital admissions.
It’s a real privilege to do that in the community and for me personally, the job really is the golden ticket of nursing.
Death is a natural part of life, although as a society we are often afraid to talk about it. I don’t think we should shy away from that because it’s something we’ll all have to go through.
The amount of thanks and gratitude I get from patients and families is amazing and it’s a totally different way of working compared to hospitals.
I started working in a care home when I left school and then joined the Northumbria bank as a healthcare assistant. From there I trained as a nurse then started at Wansbeck Hospital.
I always wanted to look after people and make a difference and the NHS really opened doors for me giving me a fantastic career.
For the past 18 months, I’ve also been doing work with occupational health which is about looking after our own staff by doing things like PPE fit testing, health clinics and most recently administering flu jabs in the run-up to winter.
However, it has been a sad time for our team because we’ve been caring for people who have passed away due to Covid19. Despite this, our team pulled together and really supported each other.
Having to wear a mask is difficult for staff but also for the patients who can’t see your face, which is a big part of personal care. Because of social distancing we’ve also had to limit physical comfort which is a struggle for me because at very intense times you do want to give people a hug.
Despite the terrible things that Covid has brought, it’s also taught us a lot as a healthcare system and it’s been amazing to see how people have pulled together to support patients and each other.