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Working from home is definitely not all that it seems. Some might say it’s the easy option; not leaving home to go to work, sat in your pyjamas all day.
But when the boundaries of your work and home life blur into one, your work-life balance can shift. And what was once your sanctuary where you found solace after a busy day is invaded by a flurry of Microsoft Teams meetings, video consultations and mobile phone calls.
“The teams I am part of are only seen virtually”
I have been a nurse for more than 30 years, always clinical and patient facing. Working late, starting early as we all do. I work as part of many teams; on wards, in integrated care teams, care homes and patient homes as an advanced nurse practitioner. Then Covid-19 reared its head and all changed. Due to health vulnerabilities I have been working from home for the last few months.
My dressing table is now my desk in my home office (aka the bedroom). My work buddy is currently a rescue dog named Stella. The teams I am part of are only seen virtually.
The only time my work phone rings is when I am wanted for something clinical; it’s never just a phone call to say “Hi, how are you today?” And being such a social butterfly, it has left me feeling isolated from my colleagues and friends.
The best I can hope for is the weekly team meetings for the interactions that I crave but instead I end up watching intently as my colleagues continually freeze on my screen. We talk about – yes you guessed it, work, no chit chat. But at least I have seen and spoken to someone other than the TV, my hubby or the dog.
Admittedly I do feel safe at home. I am grateful for the opportunity that I have been given by my trust to be protected and to continue to provide a service and work clinically. But I feel incredibly guilty working at home while colleagues are out there with patients and I am not. I am not used to sitting it out on the sidelines.
Trying to reason with the overwhelming feeling that I should be doing more, despite the new workstreams I have taken on clinically, is a tough ask of anyone. It eats away at you, leaving you feeling sad and all alone in your little office (the bedroom).
During the past weeks I have been made to feel that I have not contributed to the pandemic effort by some colleagues (not all). I have even had direct comments made to me saying that I am putting them in danger while I am safe at home, when I have asked a colleague to perform a face-to-face assessment when there was no other alternative.
This was a real low point for me, I would never want to do harm to anyone. I felt so dreadfully sad and for once in my life I decided that I had to justify my current role and responsibilities to this individual.
So I did, I laid it all out there. To which that person said “I didn’t realise you were doing all that, wow!” But to have to explain myself to others left me reeling and vulnerable.
I have been and still am so worried that everyone would see me as someone that was avoiding my duty of care as a nurse. Being a nurse and doing a good job is so important to me. I am proud to be a nurse.
“Nursing is ever changing and will always continue to be so to meet the demands of the service”
But it’s not all negatives. I have had the opportunity to expand my skills and knowledge; share my expertise with others, exploring initiative ways of working and working virtually in new teams.
I have undertaken new aspects of my role that I would not have chance to do if Covid-19 hadn’t have come along. And video call meetings are the future, no traffic jams, sat in hot cars, driving around car parks for hours looking for a parking space. All that clinical time wasted; instead it’s log on, cuppa in hand and off we go.
I have always said that nursing is a dynamic profession. And the last 100 days in lockdown have proved this. Nursing is ever changing and will always continue to be so to meet the demands of the service.
Despite all the heartache and tragedy Covid-19 has brought to the world, it has also shown us that we are resilient and we are adaptable and we have courage.
But as nurses we also have vulnerabilities too and we need to be kind to each other as colleagues. Build each other up; as we are stronger together.
Lynne Yates is advanced nurse practitioner, Derbyshire Community Health Services