Our two patient and family liaison nurses provide a valuable support service to our patients and their families.

Since November 2019, Patient and Family Liaison Nurses Kirsty Caswell and Jo Petheram have been working hard to build important relationships with hospitals, secondary care facilities and homes across the region. This has enabled them to provide support to many patients and their families in the days and weeks following their life-changing incident.

In normal circumstances, Kirsty and Jo would meet face-to-face with patients and their families, giving them the opportunity to ask questions about the care they received and the clinical interventions that were given by our crew at the time. They are also able to explore how people are coping more generally since the incident and where possible, direct them towards other support services, both emotional and practical.

Sadly, there are times when a patient may have died at the scene. Kirsty and Jo are able to meet with the family, many of whom will have unanswered questions, and signpost them to bereavement support. As you can imagine, these conversations can often be emotive and difficult, with individuals who are frequently traumatised, scared and vulnerable. That is why they believe that meeting face-to-face is so important. 

In March, the COVID-19 pandemic forced Kirsty and Jo to change their way of working after Government regulations made their usual approach impossible. They began working from home and started engaging with patients and their families virtually. This innovative approach meant that they could continue to provide the care, compassion, emotional and practical support to those that needed it. Kirsty tells us more…

“We began by calling the patient’s relative by phone. This was met with warmth and gratitude. Families were obviously at home as well during lockdown; they seemed glad to have someone to talk to, particularly as they could not be by their loved one’s bedside. We were often met with an outpouring of feelings and fears, which we were able to listen to, talk through and offer advice.

Subsequently, we started offering Facetime sessions with families and used our own experience as critical care nurses to help them visualise what the hospital environment would be like. We would explain some of the interventions that they may have witnessed on the day of the incident and the treatments that their loved ones may be having in hospital.

We have found that Facetime worked particularly well for our paediatric patients (infants, children and adolescents). We have also been able to involve pets and drawings to help them open-up, which is often difficult to do when using technology. With one of our more elderly families, I was the first Facetime call they had received. Learning how to use it opened a whole new means of communication for them, which they were really delighted with.

We believe that ‘virtual’ patient and family liaison nursing is not the best option. However, with many support services on hold during the pandemic, it has been beneficial and rewarding in a number of ways. We are proud to have adapted the way we work for the benefit of our patients and their families and hope that it won’t be too long before we are able to meet them face-to-face. What’s more, we look forward to when we can offer them an opportunity to meet the air ambulance crew who were directly involved with their care. This is a visit that often provides much needed ‘closure’ for so many. Until then, we will continue working the way we do and provide supportive, compassionate and valuable care to those who need it.”

Find out more about our patient and family liaison service