Laura Lennox, Speech and Language Therapist & Improvement Advisor, NHS Dumfries and Galloway (@LauraLennox6)

Our adult speech and language therapy team held a meeting this week.  Amongst other things, we used it as an opportunity to reflect over the last few weeks.  Some of us were considered to be essential workers and maintained our job roles in hospital settings.  Others were deployed to familiar and some unfamiliar job roles within other parts of health and care.  We felt it important to have this moment of reflection in order to allow us to understand what we have learned over the last few weeks.  We wanted to make sure that when the surge that didn’t come as expected from COVID-19, but will now come when we gradually open up our services and become busy, that we consider how we hold on to the things that added value when we didn’t have the same number of face to face patient contacts in a day as pre pandemic times.  How can we use the learning from these experiences to shape a new and different type of busy?  Although this blog is based on our own reflections, we don’t think we are alone in considering this question: What is the definition of busy?

I have one patient to see every day and my work around that is rammed…..there is always stuff to do whether that’s getting round to the same day things or thinking about how we work going forward, it’s all indirectly related to patient care.  I’ve been up to all sorts, measuring up hotels with the OT’s, Health Care Support Worker training to support the wards, helping patients connect with their families as they have no visitors, it’s all different stuff but still busy”.

“I’m very much enjoying working in new busy ways – I had always hoped that NHS Near Me (video consultations) would play more of a role in community to cut down on travel/time/expense/inconvenience and now we can add reducing exposure during a pandemic to that list.  I’m finding patients so much more open to this method now, and care homes, family members, staff…suddenly all that resistance is gone.  I’m not saying it can completely replace face to face contacts but we have come so far in such a short space of time.  I’m also very grateful for the opportunities to work from home and the technology that makes this possible.  Personally, it’s good for mental health and helps manage the anxiety I have about healthcare settings at this time.  Having a 1 year old, I get a better work life balance, true flexible working, and opportunity to still feel connected to family.  I’m also aware of the benefits to the environment, from society as a whole slowing down; climate crisis could also be described as a pandemic. 

(Thank you to our IM&T teams for being busy & making this all possible!)

“It’s lovely how connected the team feels with the opportunities for open honest discussions regularly.  So much support – we’re very lucky”

“For me it’s been fantastic that finally we have acknowledgement that staff need space to be and it’s okay and important to care for each other.  We’re all imperfect humans…not superhuman.   These gains are appreciated and MUST be maintained. Care for us so we can care for others”.

“For me the time to see and talk to patients and staff has been one of the “luxuries”.  Ward staff have been more available when you need them, its felt more like sharing the care for each patient and you can usually get hold of a relative as they are at home.  We won’t have seen so many people as not so many to see but it’s been a better more balanced pace of seeing them and having to keep up with other things like emails.  It’s just felt so nice not to be dealing with the demand by skimming the surface of care.  It’s given us a chance to think outside of the box and in doing so we’ve had a better view of colleagues’ job roles and their strengths.

At GCH we have started having our breaks around a big table which helps create the feeling of a team.  The whole AHP family thing is like a micro version in our office and I have loved the sharing of info, advice, practice and resources. I think it’s bound us together more tightly and the silos of old are well and truly gone now, and by that I mean proper integrated services.

“I’m working in a building I have never been in before.  Doing a job some of which I haven’t done for 4 years, some for 7 years but if I’m looking for the bright spots, I’ve had the chance to work alongside people I haven’t seen in years and see how much they have progressed and thrived within NHS D&G.  I’ve met so many new people and they have without fail been welcoming.  Improvise, adapt and overcome was always our SLT motto but never truer. 

We have changed in so many ways we never thought possible.  Possibly at a speed we never thought possible and whilst we would never have asked for it and it hasn’t all been easy, Winnie the Pooh sums it up”

Q.  What is the definition of busy?

The oxford dictionary tells me that the word busy is a noun, a verb and an adjective so it’s not really surprising that its use in a sentence has many different connotations.  I do wonder though, if it now means something different to what we believed it to mean in the pre COVID-19 past when it comes to health and social care:

“The next challenge is how we go forward and in what direction….an unprecedented opportunity and we need to take it…the rush back to do and the numbers game can be false…let’s build the pillars of a better future”.

“I feel that this period of time has allowed me to prepare.  I have been ‘up skilling’ – learning about SLT in critical care in management of tracheostomy and laryngectomy.  I feel I have been ‘up skilling’ others.  Our team has been providing support for staff around communicating with patients in an effective and compassionate way whilst wearing PPE. I think that we are over this first wave and who knows if we will have a second wave and possibly more, but what I do know is that I’ll be less fearful because I’ve been busy getting prepared for if we do”.

Written on behalf of the adult Speech and Language Therapy team: NHS Dumfries and Galloway.   Twitter: @SLT_DG    #AHPDG     Email: dumf-uhb.adultslt@nhs.net



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