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A day in the life of Beverley Sandy, Head of Nursing Services, UK: April 2020

I get up at about 6.30am and it’s coffee before anything. I live in the Midlands with two of my three children, two dogs and a cat, so mornings are all about getting everyone organised and fed.

Role diversity

I trained as a nurse 43 years ago now, and joined Aetna in 2009. Since first starting, my job role has changed many times, from initially leading a group of nurses who were delivering care management into the NHS, to working on setting up a maternity programme in Qatar, to providing specific wellness services to corporate customers in Ireland. The diversity that nursing can offer is one of the reasons I love my profession as much as I do.

Business as usual

For the past seven years, however, I’ve worked from home, so it’s business as usual for me at the moment from that point of view. As I work across various time zones, I turn my computer on early so I can check if anything urgent has come through during the night that I need to attend to.

The rise of virtual health care

I’ve recently moved over to vHealth, our virtual telemedicine service which enables members to connect with doctors remotely, via mobile phone, tablet or laptop. We’re opening more dedicated support lines to support members during the COVID-19 outbreak — I’m currently working on one for Dubai – and my remit is to provide clinical input into all aspects of implementation and training to ensure consistency and structure.

vHealth is designed to reduce the need for physical consultations, which is critical in these unprecedented times and useful for providing advice on other illnesses people might be experiencing which could help ease the burden on local GP surgeries. I’m currently responsible for creating training materials for our non-clinical team, colloquially known as ‘vHealthers’, who are the first people our members will speak to when they call.

Member first

At the moment, the biggest challenge is staying up-to-date with the rapid rate at which COVID-19 guidelines and regulations across the world are changing. We’re rolling out as quickly as we can and it’s imperative that, as soon as a support line opens, members can get through and be guided authoritatively and appropriately. We’ve recently developed a coronavirus assessment tool to help our vHealthers efficiently gain relevant information from callers, in order to be able to effectively assist in the most appropriate ways. vHealthers can put members in touch with a doctor or offer support, reassurance and guidance for next steps. Because the new line is clinical and specifically designed to deal with COVID-19, we’re anticipating a growing volume of calls so I lead in the training of the assessment tool and role play with teams to help boost their confidence and maintain high standards.

Scheduled breaks

I try and take a quick break for lunch but, when you work from home, you have to be disciplined to get away from your desk — as lots of people are probably finding out at the moment. I make something quick to eat, like soup or an omelette, and make sure the dogs can stretch their legs.

Respect for the front line

Then, I’m able to refocus for the afternoon, which is much needed. The current situation is like nothing I’ve ever seen, and I’ve got the utmost admiration for medical staff working on the front line, including other nurses and a radiographer in my own family. The thing is, despite all the risks, I know the attitude will be ‘roll up your sleeves and get it done’. When you’re a nurse, it’s part of who you are to take it in your stride. And the best thing we can do to support them is to follow the guidelines and advice in our country, slowing the spread as much as possible.

Even though I’m a step back from this, the pandemic has meant we have been rushed off our feet. However, as a new member of this team, this has had a silver lining for me. With lots of tight deadlines to work towards, I’ve got to know the team and my colleagues very quickly, and I’m proud of how we’ve pulled together to achieve the best care we can for our members.

Managing family commitments

By 6pm I finish work, and then it’s a matter of being creative with the food we’re able to get for dinner, picking up or taking my children to work (they are both key workers), making sure my elderly mother has meals and supplies, and giving moral support via Skype to my eldest son who has a one year old baby. I also like to read, garden and make the most of the one outing we’re allowed to have a day by going on a really nice walk.

At about 10pm, I take myself off to bed for some self-imposed isolation. It’s difficult to switch off from all the things I feel I should be doing, so I’ve started to listen to podcasts. I love ones about health, and am currently enjoying a series about addiction. Perhaps not the most restful subject for some, but they obviously help me drift off as I always seem to miss the ending…

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