A NURSE manager from the Mercy University Hospital is on a mission to ensure that none of her patients feel alone this Christmas by arranging virtual visits from friends and loved ones.
Aisling Fahey, a clinical nurse manager at the Mercy University Hospital, said that while many feel helpless as a result of visiting restrictions there are still ways to be there for friends and older or vulnerable neigbours.
She has seen first-hand the positive effect of technology for patients unable to enjoy physical visits. Thanks to donations from the Mercy Hospital Foundation, each ward now has access to their own iPad. Ms Fahey spoke of how this has enabled many patients experiencing end-of-life care to communicate with a number of people at a time through zoom during their final days.
Now, hospital staff are encouraging the public to pay virtual Christmas visits to friends and neighbours this year-particularly those without family.
Ms Fahey, who previously worked in the hospital’s Covid ward, said that members of the public can now ring the hospital to arrange a Skype or Zoom call.
“This can be a very lonely time for people,” she said.
“We want people to know that if they would like a video call with a friend they can call the hospital to arrange it. This doesn’t have to necessarily have to be a next of kin. As long as the patient gives their permission we are happy to help. The resources are available to us so we can set this up and assist the patient with the technology if necessary.’
She described how their professional lives have changed following the introduction of i-pads into the ward.
“We received iPads earlier this year when the pandemic hit,” she explained.
That was very meaningful for us as we had just gone into lockdown. It was very encouraging for patients to be able to visualise their relatives. It’s also empowering for patients to be able to reach out who-before coming into hospital-would never have considered trying this.”
Ms Fahey reiterated the importance of human contact.
“For me, there are a couple of ones that stuck,” she said of the few hospital visits still possible. “In these extenuating circumstances relatives were risk assessed. I can recall one woman who had to be dressed in protective gear while visiting her dying husband just to keep her safe.
“They were able to connect, albeit for a short period. If there is potential for infection it could be transmitted in a short period. When the time is right it means so much to have those few minutes.”
She revealed that for other relatives joining the couple via zoom it was a chance to see their loved one for the last time.
“Getting to see that person’s face again means you have another memory.”
The frontline worker explained the effect of these difficult moments on nurses.
“This is part of your role but you are never desensitised. I wouldn’t say that it is easy when you leave work and start to process it all. Our current health climate has come with an added emotional burden which is challenging. We are seeing things now that we never expected to see.”
She described the type of conversations people have during their last moments.
“People return back to routine conversation, asking about things like how everybody is back home,” she said. “When many imagine the last conversation with their relative they wonder what they could possibly discuss. We might have all these grand ideas about what we would say in a situation like this. However, in reality, many of us will revert back to what we know. Most of the time it’s not the content of the conversation but hearing the person’s voice that’s most important.”
She added that donations to purchase more iPads for the wards are always welcome.
“Hospital staff could always use more as here is no telling what the next few months might hold. At the same time, we don’t want to be greedy. Everyone has been managing so well and being so resourceful. We know that technology has so many other capabilities now. “
To donate to the Mercy Hospital Foundation visit mercyfundraising.ie.