At the start of 2020 our Hospice had one key project in mind: to update our Inpatient Unit with a complete refurbishment – something which, for large parts of the IPU, had not happened since 1984. Work started in March of this year, one day before the first national lockdown due to COVID-19. Now the project is complete, our patients are back in the IPU and our Hospice is back up and running – even better than we could’ve imagined. 

Trish McKee, our Senior Staff Nurse, has been part of the Hospice for exactly 10 years so has seen the changes and improvements resulting from the Inpatient Unit Refurb. Trish sat down with us to highlight just what a difference it has made already. 

Bringing Outside Inside

I remember the first time I came to the Hospice for my interview and my first impression was it was quite dark. Looking between then and now the changes that have been made are amazing. 

Now you come into the main IPU and your eyes are drawn out into the garden, this lovely green space in the middle of London. You’ve got the natural light flooding in; there is a sense of calm and you can feel it as soon as you walk in. 

The lounge area extends out onto a balcony, which has lovely mood lighting in the evenings. The place looks huge as a result of all this light coming in, and the sense of space can be very comforting. It’s opened the whole place up. 

A patient yesterday wanted to go out into the garden. For patients who are ill and inside most of the time the thought of fresh air on your face can be so liberating. In the end she wasn’t up to it, but we went into the garden for her and picked some herbs and brought them to her; just a tiny bit of nature that she could touch and smell made her feel that little bit better.

No More Cabin Fever

When people are really unwell their whole world becomes the room they’re in, and they can get cabin fever. Now we have the ability to take them to a variety of different areas; we can take them outside if the weather is good and they are up to it, or we can take them to the lounge area which is beautiful in the evening. 

We have a patient who comes in fairly regularly for respite. He needs a lot of care so has a carer with him all the time, but he can be in a wheelchair so we’re able to really take him where he wants to be in the IPU. The lounge area has a nice big TV that he can go and watch, and it means he’s not confined to one room. He’s been out into the garden as well, so I think he’s noticing the new benefits. The garden in the summer is going to be spectacular, when we can open the place up and let the outside in.  

Practical Solutions

Something that I’ve noticed about the IPU since we’ve been back is the refurbishment has really taken into account what the staff needed as well. They’ve really listened to us and it’s already making a huge difference. 

Prior to the refurb, all the staff, doctors and nurses worked in the Hub. It’s a great place because you’re right in the thick of it all and we can see out and know everything that is going on. But it’s a working office – which made it difficult for staff trying to do certain types of work because there were constant interruptions in this open area. So having a sensitive conversation in a busy office was not always easy; it always felt busy. Now the doctors have their own office, allowing them to focus without interruption. 

We’ve finally got proper storage. Before the refurb we had no real storage, so some things were stored wherever there was space. Now we’ve got allocated storage where everyone knows where everything goes. It means you don’t have to waste time going to look for certain things; you know where it’s kept and you can quickly get it. 

These are practical things but from a staff point of view these have a huge impact on your day and how productive you can be. If we’re working in a good and practical environment then we are able to better deliver the most important part of our job: looking after patients.  

All About The Patients 

What I love about the refurbished patients rooms is the little things that really make them patient-focused. 

We used to have a notice board in each patient’s room that would have little details like what they like to be called, the name of their nurse and so on. But now we have this wall in each room we can write on. It allows the patients and their loved ones to put a bit of a stamp on the room and to make it theirs.

A big part of palliative care is giving people back some control when they feel like they don’t have any. So being able to display the name of their dog or things they like to do can make all the difference and allow all the staff to immediately get a snap-shot of who this person is. For example a patient yesterday had jotted down the times of when her massage therapist would be coming. It’s a little reminder to her and the family, but it’s also something for the patient to look forward to and that can do wonders for someone’s outlook. One family member had put a quote from a poem up there which was beautiful. Having that personal touch in each patient’s room is so empowering.  My hope is that family members can do little notes and doodles to remind the patient they are being thought about.

Home Sweet Home

The Inpatient Unit Refurb project has changed our Hospice in an amazing way – it really is a physical manifestation of “Putting People First”. But more than anything, for us staff, we feel like we’re back home, where everything is how we need it to be – and that makes all the difference in the care we’re able to deliver. 

While our Inpatient Unit Refurb project is now complete we are still looking for funds to help us pay for it. If you can spare anything to help deliver the kind of amazing palliative care Trish outlines above please click this LINK to give whatever you can. Thank you.