A day in the life of a patient support worker
6:25 Having double-checked my round and patient notes on my work mobile phone, I start driving to my first patient’s house. I nearly always start my shift at a patient’s home and today I’m travelling to Didcot which will take me about half an hour.
7:00 I meet my colleague, Justine, at John’s house for a double-handed visit. We don our PPE and knock on the door, which is answered by Helen, John’s wife. She shows us through to the living room, where we find John dozing on his hospital bed. We gently wake him and once he knows who we are, we ask how things have been since yesterday’s initial assessment. John and Helen are both feeling tired following a restless night and, although delighted to be back at home, John is feeling slightly anxious about how our support works.
Supporting someone with their personal care is something that is done with them and not to them, but it can feel intimidating to the uninitiated. We reassure John by explaining that we will be helping him with his morning routine and can continue to assess his condition and make sure that any concerns we have are logged on our visit notes.
Patient Support Worker visit notes are really important. We are the eyes and ears for all the clinical professionals involved in a patient’s care, so feedback from our daily visits is essential. We assess whether a patient is coping or not, flag any changes in their condition, and raise queries or concerns.
We set about following John’s care plan, working together with John at his own pace and explaining at each stage what we need to do next. We spend around 45 minutes with him, but it feels like no time at all. While documenting our visit notes on my work phone, Helen tells us that she now realises how invaluable our visits will be, because she saw that without rushing, we managed everything in less than half the time it would have taken her. John and Helen will now get more quality time together which is exactly why we’re here. I set off from John and Helen’s house to get to my next patient.
8:10 I arrive at Jane’s flat in Wantage. She lives in sheltered accommodation and, despite her illness, manages to live mostly independently, however she needs supervision to shower safely and perhaps some motivation to eat regular meals. I’ve met Jane several times now so her routine is familiar to me and we chat as we go. Jane shares that she really appreciates being at home because many of the other residents are her friends who drop in to see her often, so she’s never lonely. While Jane dresses, I make her a cup of tea and she drinks it while I complete my visit notes. Everything is normal for Jane today, so I say my goodbyes.
9:00 After another short drive, I arrive at Maggie’s bungalow and let myself in using her secure key. I’ve met Maggie a few times, but things seem different today. I ask her how she’s feeling and she tells me her energy levels and mood are low and yesterday’s devastating news that she only has weeks rather than months to live is still sinking in. With no more breakfast visits booked in, I take my time and support Maggie with the routine tasks that she wants to do today. She requests ‘just a wash, please’, and we talk more about how she feels while we do this.
Maggie says it’s tricky to have a conversation about dying. Her son lives an hour away, and although he calls daily, she doesn’t feel comfortable talking about it over the phone. However, he’s visiting tomorrow and she plans to talk to him then. Unfortunately, Maggie’s best friend still thinks she’s going to get better and won’t entertain talk of dying. Maggie feels robbed of energy and time, and there are still practicalities to sort out. I offer to make her a hot drink which she accepts, and while the kettle boils, I notice the vase of fresh flowers on the kitchen sink (delivered yesterday, but not opened) and offer to arrange them for her and place them somewhere Maggie can see them. I’ve been here an hour now and complete my visit notes reporting the changes I’ve seen. As I prepare to leave, Maggie expresses her thanks for giving her the opportunity to talk things through because it’s really made a difference to her day, and how lovely it is to have the flowers where she could see and appreciate them.
10:10 I make a phone call to our head office to check in and confirm that I’ve finished my breakfast visits. I then drive back towards Didcot.
11:15 I meet Justine for a coffee during our break and we decompress. We agree that we are lucky to be part of an amazing team who support each other emotionally as well as professionally.
12:15 Justine and I are back at John’s house for his lunchtime visit. He still has a good appetite, so while Helen prepares their lunch, Justine and I support him with his personal care needs and put the Wendylett sheet that’s just arrived on his bed to help make repositioning easier and reduce discomfort. We keep things relaxed and chat to John about his day. John’s sense of fun and quick wit begins to show and Helen comes in from the kitchen to see what all the giggling is about and join in!
At the end of our visit, they both say how lovely it is to have this kind of support. Helen adds that she didn’t expect to hear laughter and how difficult it can be to share a sense of humour when you’re stressed. She tells us it means so much to have him home, and to hear John cracking jokes and being his old self again makes a challenging time more bearable.
13:15 Justine and I phone the office to check in and let them know we’ve finished all of the visits on our list. We are due to finish at 13:30 and so we are told to make our way home.
April 2023 marks one year since the Home Hospice Care service began and I’ve learned so much in this time. I enjoy my job immensely and I cannot imagine doing anything else, and I know my colleagues feel the same. Every one of us aims to give our patients and their families the best care and support possible, so that they can be at home while their lives are ending. To help them fulfil this wish is such a privilege.
Please note that names have been changed for confidentiality.