Ever wondered what goes into the day-to-day care service provided by RedArc nurses through policies?
With an obligatory cup of tea in hand, we always start the day with a team meeting to discuss any issues that may have arisen the previous day.
It's important that everyone is alert to significant changes in all clients - particularly if our nurses identify any people we support as ‘high risk' who may be at risk of harm to themselves or others. The safety of our clients, carers and the public in relation to suicide, self-harm and vulnerability is paramount. We undertake risk assessments and document and communicate any care management, engaging and collaborating with clients, other health care professionals and carers as required.
Although we primarily offer telephoned-based support, we do often get emails from our clients, so we're very mindful to ensure we respond as quickly as we can. We're also looking out for replies from a range of additional therapists that we refer to, as well as responses to any enquiries that we have made in relation to sourcing additional services and support groups that may be available to our clients.
Following the team meeting, I pick up my new referrals and check their diagnoses - looking carefully at each case to see if there are any that are particularly complex cases and require additional research.
I start to telephone my clients after about 10.00am - keeping diary records of each client, discussions and outcomes as I go. Clients are always surprised and pleased to know that they will speak to me - their own dedicated personal nurse each time, and that my support is ongoing.
I do tend to start with a schedule but I have to be very flexible as clients often phone in too, which means my best laid plans don't always work out.
I take the time to listen to any worries and concerns, talk to people about what they're going through, answer any questions to help them understand their diagnosis and discuss any treatment options. The calls can be as little as a few minutes, for example, if people just have some simple questions about their treatment, or a lot longer if they just really need someone to talk to. In a world that is so busy and always-on, you can't underestimate the value of giving someone time.
My first call of the day is to a client who had surgery for breast cancer and was sent home immediately after her surgery due to the coronavirus. She was lucky enough to have group critical illness insurance via her employer and although she has an NHS breast care nurse, she had not been told about Macmillan nurses or been given any information about their services. She was very tearful as her employer believed that she was no longer eligible for statutory sick pay and she was wondering how she was going to manage financially. I explained the role of the Macmillan nurses and emailed her their helpline number which resulted in her finding out she was eligible for sick pay (which was reinstated immediately).
Longer term outcome: Subsequently, she is liaising with her employer about a potential part time return to work, as she feels she will be able to continue some of her work from home during lockdown. Whilst the terms haven't been agreed, she is feeling more optimistic about her future and is looking forward to the prospect of being productive at work, without any financial burden hanging over her.
My second client of the day is a gentleman nearing retirement who had purchased income protection via his adviser, prior to receiving a diagnosis of Parkinson's Disease. I've spoken to him on other occasions but today he was interested in finding out about support groups in his local area. I researched the Parkinson's Disease Society and put him in touch with a support group local to him.
Longer term outcome: The individual is very grateful for the ongoing support he's received via his insurance and very pleased his adviser recommended a policy which included an excellent support service. With the support provided by RedArc support, he's dealing well with his diagnosis and looking forward to his forthcoming retirement.
A young client is referred by his group critical illness provider because he has had a stroke and been left feeling vulnerable and lonely - he feels that he is too young to have had a stroke and therefore it's difficult for friends and colleagues to understand what he's going through. I explained that there is a charity called Different Strokes that supports young stroke victims, and after doing some research, ascertained that there was a group fairly nearby that he could go along to. He was very grateful for the information and felt it would help him become more positive. Mental health issues often arise from physical illness, so I'm so pleased this young man was receptive to my support.
Longer term outcome: Getting support from both us and the specific charity is helping his recovery and rehabilitation. It is building his confidence in returning to his normal life including work.
I contacted another client who is ex-military and whose wife died last year. Although he is financially stable, having received a pay-out via his wife's individual life insurance policy, he is in need of emotional support during this difficult time. He's been left with two small children and is struggling to cope. As often happens in bereavement, he has anger issues which are exacerbated by unresolved Post Traumatic Stress Disorder following his deployment to Northern Ireland as well as Afghanistan.
Too unwell to investigate himself, I mention the Combat Stress Charity to him and agree to do some research to see if they could support him. Following several phone calls, they sent me a referral and registration form and explained that a welfare ex-services officer would visit him following the referral to assess his needs and provide the appropriate services for him. He was delighted with this outcome and said that in his current state of mind, he wouldn't have been capable of finding this information out for himself.
Longer term outcome: The gentleman continues to be supported by us and the Combat Stress Charity and following specific courses of therapy, is much better able to manage day-to-day life.
In my experience, providing support over the telephone allows many people to feel more comfortable than they might if they were expected to attend a meeting in person or a video call. They often open up more because they don't feel they are being judged - and it really doesn't matter whether they're still in bed or in their dressing gown!
Being a personal nurse is a very privileged position, but it's not without its challenges as it can be emotionally draining. On a break in my schedule, I can see that a colleague has just come off a long and emotional call, so I make sure she knows that I am available if she needs a chance to offload and explore further ways that we can help her client.
RedArc acknowledges and appreciates how much we invest in the people we support and encourages us to access time out. In the late afternoon, I'm booked in for a reflexology session - my second of four provided by the company - which helps me to unwind and renew my energy for the following day.
Before I head home I ensure all my paperwork is up to date and that any changes in clients have been communicated to the correct parties. I also put together a possible schedule for tomorrow, knowing full well I can't entirely know what the day will hold.
Reflecting on the day, I feel that I made a real difference to the lives of the people I spoke to - many of whom are currently too vulnerable or preoccupied to be able to do any significant research for extra support themselves. It is often the way that previously very capable individuals are absolutely incapacitated by an illness, family death or trauma, and whilst their immediate needs such as treatment and medication may be met elsewhere, their emotional needs can be very consuming and long term and inhibit overall recovery.
The role that added-value services play in insurance is really gaining ground and as well as being pleased with the outcomes of our support, the people we support are always hugely grateful to their insurance provider, adviser or employer too. Making sure insurers and employers communicate the availability of our support is something I'd really like to improve though - as some of my clients start by saying "I wish I'd known about RedArc earlier".
Sue Kinsella is head of nursing services for RedArc Nurses
During lockdown amid redundancy fears
More than a quarter upped exercise
More than 270 death claims
Term & Health Watch 2020
She takes over from Steve Bridger