The NICU Team: The Unsung Shining Stars

The survival of a sick or premature baby requires hard work and dedication from the whole team, including the family. How often do we take time to understand all these roles and celebrate the efforts of the individuals involved? Understanding the roles of others in the team can help us work together more effectively.

It was my pleasure to talk with Sharon, who works as a cleaner in our NICU department at St Michael’s.

Interview with Sharon

First of all Sharon, what is your official job title?

Hotel Services Assistant

How long have you been working in NICU?

4 years

I notice you are always there really early in the morning, especially if I’ve had a bad night shift and I’m still here early in the morning and I see you! What time do you start?

Officially 7 O’clock, but we get here about quarter to 6 so that we can make up our trollies, check the notice boards, so if there’s a patient that has gone into isolation we have to make up different buckets, we have to use different materials and then we can arrange when to do that room. Or if we have a patient going to x ray or another department we can plan to do their room while they are away. So we can plan our day. Then a very important part of the day- coffee and toast! That makes all the nurses and doctors smile because we are having toast when they come in and they know it’s almost the end of their night shift when they see that! We work until 13:30. After leaving the ward there’s a process to clear the trolleys and re-stock the cupboards.

How many people are there in your team?

Six. We rotate, with an overlapping shift system so every day is covered including the weekends.

Talk me through your daily tasks

HDU first- bins, towels, soaps, then special care and the side rooms.

I try and start very early with cleaning before the parents come in. We go into the rooms and dry mop the floors (to get the dust up first) followed by wet mop. There’s often quite a lot of stains on the floor from different medications which can be sticky or coloured. There’s no set pattern because we need to be flexible around the patient needs and movements in the day. For example, this morning a patient went down for eye laser, which meant I could come in and clean the room whilst they were out, which was brilliant because it was all done before any of the team needed to go in there.

How has your job changed in the pandemic?

Right. [Pause].

We obviously have to wear masks, aprons, gloves and goggles and these have to be fully changed for every room. We have to wash our hands even more often than before. We are carefully cleaning surfaces very regularly for example door handles, touch plates, and door locks- the key pads. Before we would be doing these once or twice in a shift and now we wipe them down basically every time we pass them. We are trying to make stocks last because everyone is hand-washing more often, so we’ve changed where dispenser soaps are available- only above the silver sinks. The rest of the sinks are the pump operated soaps.

I’ve been thinking about this and I think you and your team are doing such an important role, I hope you know that, I’m sure you do know that, you are keeping our staff safe and also the babies safe. Obviously infection in a baby is so devastating.

What’s the best thing about working here?

I just love the interactions with everybody.

With parents.

I just had a really nice letter from a parent which they sent in to my boss saying what I’m like!- it was lovely to get it. I like to make people happy.

And you do!

Even if I come in with a headache, I try and smile. Because, I know, their situation must be awful really. We’ve got to think about them and what they’re going through. I always try and say good morning to the babies! I do have my favourites sometimes as well

[gasp of shock] – we won’t tell anyone about that!

It must be lovely to see the babies who do well and see them getting bigger?

Oh yes. And when they go home! And then when they come back to visit and you go “my gosh- they’ve got big- what are you feeding them on?!”

 It’s the interactions I love when they come back. When they come to clinic sometimes they’ll just pop in and come back and see us all. Its really, really nice. I always get asked to come and see them when they visit- the parents always ask – they say “can we see Sharon?”.

They probably remember you better than they remember the consultants!

Yes probably, because they see me more often.

When I’m on holiday or have a few days off work and I come back, the parents say “we missed you”.

No-one ever says that to me!

-Well there you are 😊

Is there anything else you think I should put in this interview?

I don’t think so. The majority of staff we have here, whatever their status, will say “Good Morning” to us cleaners. Even one who didn’t for ages has now started to say hello to me.

I think that’s really good. We are all one big team here working to keep the babies safe and actually, if you didn’t come to work one day rather than I didn’t come to work one day, the patient care would suffer more quickly. I think people need to understand that!

I think some of the team also need to understand that I’m looking after 4 rooms. Sometimes the hand soap might run out and you get a complaint but you might be in a different room. One day this week a doctor walked into a room and noticed the floor was dirty, but the nurses explained that I hadn’t had the chance to get into that room yet. Now the doctors’ round was on, I couldn’t get in there. Once they’d gone I went in and cleaned it. Because there’s 4 main rooms to look after, you need to be checking all the time.

So what you have to have is good situational awareness isn’t it?!- a bit like the medical team- you’ve got to be aware all the time of what’s happening in the areas and what things have changed.

Exactly.

Thankyou so much Sharon!

Sharon, one of our wonderful team of Hotel Services Assistants

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