In these turbulent times when so much is unfamiliar, the upbeat, positive attitude of the St Luke’s workforce is continuing as it always has. Together as staff and volunteers, we’re known across our community as a ‘can do’ crowd, but what is new since the COVID-19 pandemic is a stronger-than-ever sense of shared purpose, not to mention even greater camaraderie.
Helping our service run as smoothly as possible for families who need us more than ever are the staff who’ve been temporarily redeployed, assisting our teams that are under increased pressure due to the pandemic while their own areas are quieter during this time.
Ordinarily, Anthea Whalley would be working at our offices based at Crownhill, where she is Education Administrator. Instead, she is busy with mops, cleaning cloths and laundry 25 hours a week at Turnchapel as part of the domestic team responsible for maintaining the very highest standards of hygiene there.
Anthea said: “With my usual job currently much quieter, I’m glad to be busy doing something so essential as helping to keep the specialist unit such a clean, tidy and uplifting environment for patients and staff. Everyone has been so welcoming, and it has been lovely putting faces to the names of colleagues I have only ever talked to over the phone or via email.
“My eyes have been opened to just how much our domestic staff do. In a typical shift, I clean the bathrooms and keep them stocked with essential items, mop the ward floors, empty bins and launder patients’ bedding. With many staff working from home, the office spaces are pretty quiet but I clean the staff toilets and the kitchen area. I find it satisfying as I work my way around, and I really enjoy chatting to our patients if they want to talk.
“Like all the other patient-facing staff I wear the necessary PPE. It can get hot and the goggles steam up, but there a real sense among us that we’re all in this together. I’m happy to keep doing this for as long as it takes.”
Cleaning alongside Anthea is Rachel Brown, who was quick to offer help with domestic duties when it became clear her usual work as a ‘roaming’ manager for our charity shops would not be needed for a while. And also rolling up her sleeves at Turnchapel is Gifts Engagement Fundraiser Lorraine Clark, who has swapped mornings in her usual ‘habitat’ of the office she shares with colleagues at Plympton for the busy kitchen at the unit.
With a background that includes running kitchens in pubs and care homes, plus her current business The Twisted Tea Room, Lorraine quickly felt at home alongside Catering colleagues Tracey and Lee, where she is – as she puts it – Chief Pot Washer. She is also enjoying serving meals to our patients, making time for some friendly banter with them along the way.
Lorraine said: “I like juggling tasks so I’m very happy putting in shifts before returning to my fundraising role in the afternoon. I’ve been struck by how everything is made so dignified for our patients, and it feels good to be helping because extra pairs of hands are so needed.”
Meanwhile, our Retail Area Managers Kerry Hearn and John Saunders – both familiar faces at Plympton, as well as across our network of 34 charity shops – are also putting in hours at Turnchapel, having put themselves forward to be part of the Reception team.
Though the clinical environment is far removed from the one that’s their norm, they’re gladly answering the phones, working alongside Receptionist Jenny Nicholls to provide that all-important friendly and efficient first point of contact for families calling to check on the condition of their loved ones.
Kerry said: “We’re still busy stocktaking, maintaining online sales and checking all our shops to ensure they’re secure during lockdown, but John and I wanted to step up because in crisis we all have to pull together more than ever.
“Initially, we were a bit apprehensive as we’re out of our ‘comfort zone’. We had to quickly get to grips with the phone system and speaking to people who are often, understandably, in a state of high emotion because they can’t be with their loved one in person due to current visiting restrictions. Some of those conversations really stay with you. There’s no doubt that though, that doing this has made me feel even more passionate about our charity. Being at Turnchapel, you see at first hand the vital difference St Luke’s makes.”
John said: “Helping at reception is like coming full circle. It’s so rewarding to see how our retail income is used, funding such superb care. From the domestic staff to the doctors and nurses, every single person is going above and beyond. It’s a privilege to be alongside them.”
Tracey Holman, Head of HR and Organisational Development, said: “I have always known our staff are great at supporting one another, but the positivity and flexibility they’ve demonstrated over recent weeks has taken this to a whole new level. They should all feel very proud that by stepping forward to provide cover wherever it’s most needed they’re making us an even more resilient organisation in these hugely challenging times. A big thank you to all of them.”