Back to the floor - Friday the 13th!

Some people think Friday 13th is an unlucky date and avoid doing things 'just in case'..... I hope our Emergency Department team in Royal Preston Hospital didn't think it was a bad omen because that was the date I asked if I could work the night shift! This is what I found out.......

Chief Exec and ED staff First of all I had already worked during the day so I knew I would need a couple of hours sleep before going on duty at 9pm. I had a room booked in accommodation block C and arrived at 5.30pm armed with a most flattering pair of scrubs and a tea bag. The accommodation was clean but not comfortable and I don't think I have ever been anywhere with such thin walls. I heard a doctor speaking to the ward staff on the phone and I could have sworn she was calling from the wardrobe in my room - she sounded so close - but she was actually upstairs! I truly tried hard to get some sleep but the noise of doors banging, people talking, cars revving up were nothing compared to the incessant quacking of ducks!! I gave up in the end and went back to my office to do some work before going on duty.

At 9.30pm I arrived in the Emergency Department to be greeted by Sister Jen and Lee Halliwell, ED Consultant. The department was very busy and they had been dealing with a number of majors and trauma cases. Thankfully they gave me jobs to do - I did a urine test, took and recorded some patients’ observations (although it did cause a bit of mirth when I asked for a thermometer to take a temperature. Apparently we haven't used them since Adam was a lad) and then the fun started. I offered to do all the patient transfers on the basis that it would keep the proper team in the place they were most needed and it was something I was good at. I can walk and push trolleys with the best of them! I reckon I walked 15K that night. I lost count of the trips to CT scanner, X-ray and Medical Assessment Unit but my feet helpfully reminded me! I cannot imagine how our nurses, porters and security guards do this over and over again and keep smiling and cheery.

Time and time again I saw our doctors, nurses, Health Care Assistants, medical and nursing students, porters and security guards go above and beyond the call of duty. They were often dealing with patients who were drunk, aggressive and rude. Those patients were treated in return with politeness, respect and courtesy.

At 4am it was time for a break and a bite to eat but being thoroughly disorganised I hadn't brought anything so I went to Charters, the hospital restaurant, and got a hot meal from the vending machine. Well some of it was hot and some of it was nuclear! Strange how unappetising a jacket potato with cheese and beans can be when half of it is dried out and stuck to the plastic container and the remainder removes your throat lining when you eat it! Interestingly there were patients who were in a state of inebriation having takeaway pizza delivered to their cubicles - perhaps I should have joined them?

Eventually at 7.15am Sister Jen took pity on me and gave me permission to go off duty ......but not before I'd cleaned the trolleys and help tidy the department for the day shift!

So what did I see during my shift? I saw a never-ending procession of patients and carers; and mental health, ambulance and police colleagues working alongside our staff to provide care and support to patients with wide-ranging needs. I saw patients who were tremendously grateful to our staff for their care, support and compassion. I saw our night cleaners relentlessly cleaning not just the areas immediately visible but behind radiators, hand rails and all those places we never see. I saw our radiographers constantly dealing with worried patients whilst answering the never-ending phone calls, security guards and porters lightening patients' and colleagues’ spirits with lively banter. I saw ward staff filling bed after bed hour after hour with nothing less than a welcoming smile and warm words for the new admissions. In essence I saw a team of people across the hospital working together in difficult and often emotional circumstances - and I felt extremely proud to be a part of this.

What are the things I'm going to look at and try to improve?

We need to improve the accommodation for on-call staff, and make sure staff and any patients and visitors who are here unexpectedly overnight have good food options
The Emergency Department is like a whacky races obstacle course! We know we need to improve and upgrade the department but in the meantime let's see what improvements we can make now.
There is constant photocopying in the Emergency Department – we’re working on introducing an electronic patient record which I’m sure will resolve this issue

To everyone on duty that night - a sincere thank you for being so warm and welcoming. I really appreciated your kindness to me.

Karen Partington
CHIEF EXECUTIVE