Samantha Bell MAAPT, Assistant Network Mortuary Manager, reports on Dying Matters 2021 at UHCW
We all know how hard these last 14 months have been, most of us have struggled personally and/or professionally at some point or other.
One of us was hospitalised with COVID-19. Others had to shield and work from home (not so easy in our job!), spending months away from their colleagues , feeling isolated or actually guilty about not being able to physically help with the amount of work coming through our doors.
For me personally, it was the sheer exhaustion.
Not just from the amount of patients we received or the never ending coroner and forensic PM’s we were still doing in the midst of everything, but from the constant worry about capacity issues.
Where do we put all of these people? What if the FD’s don’t collect and another patient comes in?
The constant juggling of transferring patients to our satellite sites, moving our lighter patients from our regular fridge spaces into smaller temporary Nutwell spaces.
All the while ensuring dignity and respect for the patient was maintained throughout, as was keeping an eye on my colleagues. Ensuring they were well supported was at times overwhelming.
Eventually things did calm down. Staff returned to work and admission numbers returned to normal. Slowly but surely we began to debrief, reflecting on what went well and the things that didn’t. As a team we were so proud of our efforts throughout the pandemic and we wanted to show our wider colleagues just how good we are. This is where the suggestion of a Mortuary department open day as part of Dying Matters week came from.
To be honest, we all wanted a little bit of normality back.
As a teaching hospital, we are very much used to facilitating visits and training for outside agencies and service users. It would be good to have some visitors back in the department.
Our Chaplaincy team, who were leading event’s this year, were keen for the focus to be on staff’s own experience of death, whether it be on a personal or professional level. They were more than happy to add us to their list.
As a team, we wanted to use the event to demonstrate the patient pathway through the mortuary & to use the tour as a tool for training and educating ward staff as to why we ask for certain processes to be carried out during the care after death procedure.
We decided to use a booking system, limiting each time slot to a maximum of 4 and ensuring the department wasn’t overcrowded in order to be COVID safe. Just short of 150 of our colleagues attended over the course of the day.
We split into groups of 2, pairing an experienced member of staff with a less experienced and broke the tour down in to 4 areas:
We each gave a talk about what happened in each area, explaining processes and procedures with the use of props.
For me, this was the best part; listening to our junior staff consolidate their knowledge, explaining things in detail and seeing their faces light up when speaking about patient care was just amazing. It was a chance for our staff to show off just how brilliant they actually are and to give our wider colleagues within the Trust and an insight into APT and BMA roles.
We encouraged questions (as you can imagine some of them were a bit strange!)
We answered honestly and openly which really helped to put minds at ease and reinforce how professional we are.
We asked our visitors to leave comments on a huge whiteboard about what they were expecting to see before the visit and their thoughts about the department afterwards. We gave out feedback forms and provided certificates for CPD.
I can’t recommend opening your doors to your own colleagues enough. It helps to cement ongoing working relationships as well as establish new ones. It provides peace of mind to our ward based colleagues that patient care continues after death and it helps reinforce reasons why care after death processes are put in place or requested by mortuary staff.
As you can imagine the feedback was amazing! The whole day was amazing! It was just the morale boost we all needed.