Connecting, learning and reflecting through COVID-19 – Rebecca Leckie

Rebecca Leckie, Staff Nurse Respiratory

Rebecca Leckie is a Staff Nurse in Ward A3 Respiratory at Antrim Area Hospital.  She is incredibly proud of being a nurse and was inspired by her mum who was also a nurse, striving to provide the best possible care for patients.

In this week’s Nightingale Blog, Rebecca shares her story – her personal journey into nursing, her role within respiratory and an enhanced skill set and new ways of working as a result of the pandemic.

Whilst the past few months have been difficult and frightening, there has been a positive impact on her team – a team whom she describes as being ‘the most fabulous bunch of people’.

My name is Rebecca, I am a Northern Nightingale and a Staff Nurse in A3 Respiratory Antrim Area Hospital.

My inspiration for becoming a nurse is my Mum.  I watched her when I was younger working as a nurse, raising my brother and I, juggling  the day to day tasks of home life, and on top of all that, nursing her parents.  She is the true reason I wanted to become a nurse.  Giving people love and care at the hardest of times, when no one else is there, is for me the best feeling.  I enjoy going to my work every day, and I strive to provide the best possible care to each patient I meet.  Yes, there certainly are challenges and stressful days, but my attitude is that every job will have challenges, it’s just something you have to get through – and you always do!

I have been a staff nurse in the respiratory specialty for four years now and absolutely love my job. During my nursing degree I worked as a Health Care Assistant in a surgical ward.  I always imagined that a staff nurse post in a surgical ward would be for me when I qualified, however due to staffing deficits I took up a post within the Medical Division.

In A3, we care for people with many different respiratory conditions including: Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), Asthma, Pleural Effusions (which is a build-up of fluid in the lining of the lungs) and many more.  Before COVID-19, we managed patients with AIRVO which is a device that delivers high flow nasal ventilation to spontaneously breathing patients however during the pandemic our skill set was enhanced to include clinical management of patients requiring Non-invasive ventilation (NIV) and Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP).  NIV is a form of breathing support delivering air, usually with added oxygen via a facemask and CPAP supplies constant fixed positive pressure throughout inspiration and expiration.  It was an overnight change for all of us, which was daunting, but with encouragement, support and effective leadership from the Respiratory Nurse Specialists, and other colleagues, we soon adapted to this new way of working.

‘Fabulous bunch of people’

So many things have changed for us in a short space of time.  The structure of our ward changed and the day to day routine was adapted to ensure patient and staff safety, while continuing to deliver person-centred care.  While the pandemic has been difficult and at times frightening, in terms of our ward and care, the effect of COVID-19 has made a positive impact on us as a team, learning new skills and inspiring shared purpose to deliver safe, efficient and effective care.

The team in A3 are the most fabulous bunch of people. Every day we are there for each other, to offer support, reflect on shared experiences and provide the highest quality of care to our patients and their families, working together as a team.

When I was nominated for the Nightingale Challenge I felt very privileged to be chosen to represent A3, respiratory specialty.  I want to be the best nurse possible, and so being involved with the Nightingale Challenge is giving me an insight into how I can achieve this ambition

I would say one of the qualities of being a great nurse is being able to stay calm and thankfully this is something that I do well, I enjoy solving problems and I work well under pressure. This has certainly been tried and tested during this pandemic. At times I have felt helpless – I have used my skills and knowledge to care for a very ill patient, but still got to a point where I could do no more, and that was frustrating. It made me anxious but also gave me a determination to be stronger as a person, professionally and personally.

Strongly connected and supportive

Over the past few months I have been reflecting on what makes me a good leader and I would say it is my motivation and energy to inspire others.  I like structure, organization and clear direction when working and I feel these attributes will enable me to effectively lead a team in the future.  I have really learned about the importance of a strongly connected and supportive team working during this pandemic; without my team I’m not sure where I would be!

As a leader of the future I will continue to show support and encouragement to my colleagues, as I have received from my own ward manager who has been an excellent motivator, not only throughout the pandemic, but every day.  She has given us support, guidance and encouragement to develop new skills and has been a strong leader, which I aspire to be.

‘Working together was fundamental..’

The International Year of the Nurse and Midwife 2020 is a year that will never be forgotten. It has certainly put us through our paces and has been extremely challenging. There have been so many emotions – fear of the unknown, stress, nerves, but it has also brought each one of us closer and I know it has made me appreciate the smaller things in life a lot more.

I will never forget the day when we were told A3 would be the ‘COVID ward’.  It was completely understandable as we are a respiratory ward, but at the time it just didn’t seem real.  I cried. I cried out of fear that Coronavirus was here, and it was very real.  We knew from that day that working together was going to be fundamental to getting through this. We all had to learn new ways of working, to support each other and our patients, and put our heads together to develop new ideas that would enable us to work through this terrible pandemic.

Despite the negatives COVID-19 has had on all of us, I have developed new working relationships with people that would never before have crossed my path.  We had staff who were redeployed to our ward and they were a blessing!  It must have been extremely terrifying for them, some were setting foot onto a ward which they had not experienced in a very long time, but the shared knowledge and specialist skill set we gained from their different backgrounds was amazing. Recognizing the challenge those staff faced and the dedication shown by my colleagues in teaching new skills during a stressful time makes me proud to be a nurse.

It was so unfortunate that the Nightingale Challenge was affected.  We had so much planned for the year which we were all looking forward to.  However, technology has been amazing and COVID-19 has not stopped us from continuing to be aspiring leaders of the future.  Zoom has become everyone’s best friend!  As a group we have been involved in Schwartz rounds, leadership workshops and also just spent time checking in with each other.  Schwartz Rounds provide a structured forum where all staff come together regularly to discuss the emotional and social aspects of working in healthcare.

Being a Northern Nightingale has been a great experience for me.  It has helped me understand so many other aspects of nursing and given me an appreciation of the different backgrounds and cultures we come from – the Schwartz round really highlighted this for me.  Sometimes you feel like you are the busiest and no one else will understand, but when you listen to each other’s stories and the daily challenges everyone is facing, you realise that everyone is in a very similar situation.  We form more effective relationships with each other when we are able to show compassion and empathy for each other’s experiences. The strength and resilience it takes to be a nurse is something I am incredibly proud of in myself, and in my colleagues.  We deal with sadness and pain every day, not only at this unprecedented time, but every day. We get up, go to work and get on with it.

‘A witness to final moments..’

The most difficult thing I have faced during the pandemic is caring for a person who was at the end of their life, and due to the COVID restrictions they couldn’t have their family at their bedside.  I was there holding their hand but they couldn’t feel my skin through the gloves, see the colour of my hair under my hat, or even the colour of my uniform under the gown, but they could see my tearful eyes –  There is a lot to be said for holding a hand and just being there.  Sitting with a patient while they see and talk to their family through a phone screen has been heartbreaking. Patients and their families would never have imagined this was how they were going to have their last conversation, telling them how much they loved each other through a screen.  It is incredibly humbling and heartbreaking to be witness to these final moments. Not being able to give your loved one a kiss in their final moments of life is incomprehensible, but it is the reality of COVID-19.  As a nurse working during this pandemic, I have had firsthand experience of being the last person some patients see before the end of their life.

Being a nurse or midwife is not easy, it takes a lot of hard work and dedication to become excellent, and each and every one of us are doing our very best to deliver excellent, safe, person centred care.  We are not robots, we have feelings and emotions just like anyone else and working through this pandemic has made me more self-aware in my professional and personal life.  Whether it’s taking a walk on my lunch break to clear my head or going home to curl up with my favourite throw and watch some TV, I learnt how to take care of myself.

Getting to know my fellow nightingales has helped me to navigate the COVID-19 crisis. There have been hard times but there has also been joy.  They are people I never would have met if it wasn’t for the Nightingale Challenge programme. It has been a pleasure sharing experiences and learning from them all, and I hope these relationships continue long into the future.

“Coming together is the beginning.  Staying together is progress.  Working together is success.” Henry Ford.

Rebecca Leckie, Staff Nurse, Ward A3 Respiratory, Antrim Area Hospital

Rebecca is one of the 27 Northern Trust nurses and midwives taking part in the Nightingale Challenge, launched by Nursing Now which is a programme of the Burdett Trust for Nursing, to improve health globally in collaboration with the International Council of Nursing and the World Health Organisation. The Nightingale Challenge asks for every large healthcare employer to provide leadership and development training for a group of young nurses and midwives during 2020, the International Year of the Nurse and the Midwife.

@nhsctrust #NorthernNightingales
@NursingNow2020 #NursingNowNI #NightingaleChallenge
#InternationalYearoftheNurseandMidwife

Other Northern Trust Nightingale Blogs

Gemma McClean, Hospital Diversion Nursing Sister
Judith Shevlin, Community Mental Health Nurse
Denise O’Donnell, Acting Ward Manager, Covid-19 assessment ward
Eleni McCrea, Community Midwife, Whiteabbey Hospital
Stacey Barclay, Midwife, C2, Antrim Area Hospital
Vanessa Best, Community Mental Health Nurse, Oakview House
Kirsty Wallace, Staff Nurse, Antrim Area Hospital
Christine Beare, Staff Nurse, Neonatal, Antrim Area Hospital
Laura Smith, Midwife, Causeway Hospital, Coleraine
Mandy Young, Deputy Sister, Laurel House Chemotherapy Unit, Antrim
Nerell Browne, Practice Development Nurse, REaCH Team, Northern Trust
Chantelle Crowe, Deputy Ward Manager, Causeway Hospital
Michelle Angelone, Community Learning Disability Nurse
Catherine Middleton, Rehabilitation in Mental Health, Holywell Hospital
Lauren Campbell-Withers, Staff Nurse, Whiteabbey Hospital
Lindsay McNinch, A4, Respiratory Medicine, Antrim Area Hospital

Northern Nightingales

2020 International Year of the Nurse and the Midwife logo

15th October 2020

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