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Pulling together since 1903
Positive living and learning for people with epilepsy and other complex needs
Tough Times Blog

Pulling together since 1903

Pulling together since 1903

If St Elizabeth’s Centre had a tag line, it would be this: St Elizabeth’s: Pulling Together since 1903.

I had only been at St Elizabeth’s a few short weeks the first time I heard this. I was being told of the difficulties during the Swine Flu epidemic and how staff were staying on for rolling shifts, sleeping in spare beds in offices. “Everyone pulls together in a crisis here, that’s what St Elizabeth’s does.” Now, in my sixth year of St Elizabeth’s, I can certainly confirm this is the case.

I remember the first winter I experienced here. We aren’t surrounded by the best of roads when it comes to icy weather and it was a particularly bad winter, with staff stranded, unable to reach the site.  Rather than leave us short-staffed for the day shift, a colleague set off in one of our mini buses to collect them, braving the ice and snow with insouciance.  A similar problem occurred on the night shift, so we split the shift between us, taking it in turns to grab a few hours sleep where we could. The following day, with the weather worsening and all the rooms filled with overnighting staff, we ended up grabbing two spare mattresses to crash on the floor for the night. Safe to say, there’s nothing like sleeping on a mattress on the floor with your colleague to promote team building.

But this latest challenge may be the biggest challenge we have faced. The last couple of weeks have been difficult for everyone, and I, like many of you, have found myself scrolling through Twitter, bombarded with images of desperation and panic.

Set against that sense of chaos, coming in to work each day is truly uplifting. Yes, it’s strange not having the main communal areas open. Yes, it’s hard having to explain to families they cannot come onto the bungalows to see their relatives, instead having to book a room in a building elsewhere on the site (which is deep cleaned within an inch of its life between each visit) Yes, it’s challenging to explain to residents why there is no football on at the moment and why they cannot go to their usual cinema and dinner trip.

But, despite these challenges, in the last two weeks I have still seen many smiles, heard the sound of residents singing along to music videos, watched them be supported to make Mother’s Day cards to send to their loved ones and smelt the waft of baked goods as they’ve been helping in the kitchen to make cakes on their bungalows.

Briefings are being held daily, to update protocols in line with the changing circumstances. Resources and staffing levels are checked across each department, each Head of Service ready to support their fellow department where needed. Team meetings are held for bungalow teams to cascade this information to those on the shop floor. “How are you all doing?” I asked in a team meeting this week. “Is everyone OK?”

Where my question could have been met with a frenzy of anxiety, instead it was met with an almost nonchalant “Yes, of course. We’re St Elizabeth’s, we are getting on with it as normal.”

As the weeks go on, I know the challenges will increase. It is inevitable that staff sickness will worsen, and that we may, sadly, see some of our residents become unwell. But I am certain, that despite the adversity the whole world is facing right now, we will stay true to that unofficial tag line.

St Elizabeth’s, Pulling Together since 1903.

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