One hour she could be holding a patient’s hand as they take their last breath,  the next visiting another with wounds requiring urgent care.

That’s how Sophia Drazin, community nurse team leader, at Townlands Hospital, Henley, sums up the varied role of today’s district nurse.

These crucial Oxford Health nursing roles support thousands of patients each year, but in 2020 – which is Year of the Nurse – things have changed considerably for Sophia and the other 260 clinical staff across Oxfordshire’s District Nursing Service.

It seems a lifetime ago that a district nurse’s typical day would have started in the office with a cup of tea and cheery face-to-face friendly banter with colleagues.

Since Covid they have had to adapt to lives as remote workers, embracing new technologies to stay connected with each other while still delivering exceptional care in the communities they serve including supporting care homes.

At 8am, every team member on shift will join a Microsoft Teams morning safety handover from home or in the hospital car park, via a laptop or mobile.

As team leader Sophia checks everyone is present and discusses  ‘daily patients’, such as those on insulin and syringe drivers, making sure cases have been allocated and any important information handed over. Emails requiring urgent help are actioned.

Sophia explained: “At this point our designated ‘office runner’ back at Townlands, will call out any patient stock or blood forms that need to be collected as well as putting together everyone’s PPE – masks, gloves, aprons.

“When staff arrive in the hospital car park, our office-runner delivers their stock to them. A bit like a drive-through but sadly no McDonald’s included.”

Once the morning safety briefing has finished and all stock collected, the team can start visiting patients. The service operates until 6pm each day deals covering a broad spectrum of work from wounds, leg ulcers and frailty assessments to continence issues.

“We see many different types of patients from those requiring insulin administration to people with complex end of life needs. Our days are never the same.

“As a result of the COVID-19 outbreak, a lot of my day is spent supporting the local care homes and making sure they feel supported and any concerns escalated appropriately, “ said Sophia.

“I am in daily contact with the care home managers discussing PPE, staff morale and importantly whether there are any deteriorating patient’s that require GP/district nurse input.

“Crucially, I emphasise the district nurse service is here to help, we are here to support them during this troubled time. The care home managers have been extremely appreciative of our daily calls and greatly welcome our offer of PPE training.”

At 1pm, handover begins via Microsoft Teams.

“Staff may be at home, in their cars in the hospital car park, or outside a patient’s house. The beauty of using technology is you can be anywhere to join the meeting; we no longer need to drive 15 mins back to the office knowing you still have patients to see in the afternoon. Nonetheless, technology will never beat face to face contact – a social conversation over lunch is irreplaceable!”

Once afternoon handover is complete, staff will continue to see patients in the, finish off any referrals and complete paperwork.

“My responsibility as the team leader is to make sure work is allocated for the next day and to escalate any staff concerns immediately so help can be organised,” said Sophia.

“I will also be in regular contact with my team, supporting them with any patient queries or handing over information that has come through from the duty desk. At 4pm, I ring round all my team to check they have finished and any queries for the day dealt with, a check in and safety handover. Once done, I am free to go home myself. The day is complete!