Back to the floor - MAU Chorley

The alarm clock went off very early indeed as I was doing an early shift on the Medical Assessment Unit (MAU) at Chorley Hospital. For those of you who don't know the area, MAU is a 23 bedded acute admissions area with two trolley bays that provides space for assessment of patients referred to us by GPs. The staff often don't know who is coming through their doors, and have to be prepared to look after patients with a wide variety of very acute illnesses and conditions.

Staff at Medical Assessment Unit Chorley Anyway, I had misread my diary and thought I had to be there for 7am and it was only when I arrived that I realised it should have been 7.30! However, it was nice to meet the night shift going off duty who still looked more lively than I did, even though they had been working all night and I hadn't! Sharon, Greg and Nicola (shift Health Care Assistant superstars!) were to be my tormentors (I mean mentors!) for the day. Only joking because of course they were thoroughly brilliant and were fantastic with me.
First task of the day was to give out breakfast to everyone who was able to eat - it's a big ward to go round to ensure everyone had food and also to make certain that anyone who needed help received it. Some of the patients had been on the ward for a while and were well known to the staff - and it clearly showed. Ward staff knew individual food preferences and who needed or wanted help. Despite the frantic ward activity I didn't see anyone who was rushed through a meal or made to feel that the team member had anything more important to do.

I was given a job to do - check the commodes and sluice every two hours, check the IV trays every two hours. Trying to make sure I did this on time in between washes, commodes, pressure area care, making beds, asking nurses for information on behalf of patients, going back to patients to relay the information, answering call bells, moving beds between bays - my head was all over the place and time lost any meaning! I really take my hat off to our ward teams who do this day in day out - it's exhausting! There were a number of student nurses on MAU while I was there - it took me back (a long long way!) to the days when I was a student. These young students were so committed, enthusiastic, dedicated, and professional, and looked as though they were enjoying what they were doing. I heard lots of questions being asked and coaching given as part of the working day. They were full of fun as well - it reminded me how vital it is to have people with mixed work/life experience working together to keep everyone fresh. We really want our staff to enjoy their roles and have fun at work - happy staff invariably make happy patients! Let us know how we can do this!

So in the middle of ward rounds, medicine rounds, patients on and off the wards for tests and investigations, tea rounds and observation rounds I saw staff taking time to talk to patients, concerned to ensure they knew what was happening to them.....and repeating themselves over and over again with not a trace of impatience just a simple desire to make sure their patients were happy with the information. There was an agency nurse booked to provide enhanced care to a number of patients with dementia or confusion in one of the bays and it would have been easy to have allowed her to do this for the whole shift. Instead the ward sister Barbara swapped people around with her to make sure everyone looking after these patients did so for a short period of time. This was to ensure our patients with the greatest needs had the very best of care from 2 or 3 staff all the time in short but sustained periods. I think it worked really well.

I tell you what though - these wards are very hot when you've been rushing around! Of course because our patients haven't been active but are sitting or lying down they feel the cold as soon as you open the windows more than 3 millimetres. I don't know what the answer is but I feel a conversation with our estates team coming on!! I did promise that I would find out whether or not the summer uniforms could be worn in winter.

Lunch was run like a military operation - I have to say the food looked excellent and smelled delicious. There was something on the menu called a 'butter pie' and I'm told it's a Lancashire delicacy - I said I'll try it next time it's on the menu in the dining room (it doesn't sound very healthy, it's not really just butter is it?!! Another thing to find out!) Every patient I spoke to had nothing but praise for the food that day - it was delivered piping hot by a team of staff and from start to finish every patient had a meal delivered within 15 minutes. As I worked my shift there were a few things I noticed or were raised with me and I have noted some of them in the 'what am I going to do next section'.

MAU is a challenging, fast-paced, fast-turnover unit that requires quick thought and action from all the staff working there. It could be very easy to focus on the many tasks in hand rather than the many patients who need our help. I saw only the focus on the whole patient and where relatives were involved I witnessed only kindness and consideration. I had a bit of a 'throat lump' moment when a relative was looking at her husband through the glass panel and was describing to me their lives together before he became ill and forgot who she is. It made me feel very grateful for what I have and was a sharp reminder not to take it for granted. MAU staff experience these moments every day - it can't be easy dealing with the emotional side of illness and the impact it has on more than the patient.

MAU team (and I mean the multi-disciplinary team) have a great deal to be proud of. Keeping up the energy to do this day in day out with smiles, laughter and kindness to patients and each other takes some doing. I really enjoyed being a part of their team and they made me feel very welcome.

To everyone who worked with me on the shift, a sincere thank you for being so kind and welcoming to me.

Karen Partington