Children’s Hospice care during a pandemic

Acorns in the Black Country, Walsall has been providing vital front-line hospice care for some of the region’s most vulnerable children and families during the pandemic.

Over the course of lockdown the hospice has also been providing expert support to around 200 local families who have been shielding at home for the protection of their children and coordinating daily delivery of care packages of food and essentials to those that need them.

The pandemic has meant many things different inside the hospice from the way they were before. Whereas before, Acorns staff would wear their own clothes in their day to day job, now for everyone’s safety, staff and volunteers all wear uniform when at the hospice. Personal protective equipment – including masks gowns and gloves – are worn by clinical staff when providing care to children.

Hospice nurses in PPE

Anna Terry, Clinical Nurse Lead at the hospice explains how the hospice has adapted and despite the changes, still provides the same love and commitment it always has done to families.

“During the pandemic, everyone’s had to change the way they work and it’s the same at Acorns. We have to work differently to protect ourselves, each other and also the children. One of the main changes is having to wear PPE, especially when we’re caring for children.

Nurse in Acorns hospice wearing PPE

“There are times when your instinct is put your arm around parents and siblings but we can’t do that in the same way because of social distancing. Families are not able to see our facial expressions and that is something most of the staff have found really difficult. It feels like a barrier.

“However, when you’re smiling and you’re happy, your eyes tell a story. Because we’ll be smiling to a child – with a mask on – but they know we’re smiling because they’re laughing and smiling back at us.

“One of the other things with the PPE we’ve found most difficult is caring for families when their child is at the end of life. All you want to do is give them a hug, but you can’t. All you can do is hold their hand.

“It’s challenging and in a way feels unnatural. It’s so very hard not being able to comfort families with hugs at the most heart-breaking moments.”

Anna describes the emotional moment one family came face-to-face with some of the nurses who had been supporting them, for the first time without wearing PPE.

“This was the first time the family had seen the nurses without full PPE, gowns, gloves and masks. Mum was so thankful and said coming to Acorns was the best thing they had done, that they would never have managed at home. She said it was lovely to see what she called the ‘angels’ faces behind the masks’.

“It really brought home to us the impact of our care and that for families, just being at Acorns meant so much, and made such a difference. Despite all the changes, we’re still the same Acorns.”

Hear more from Anna about what it’s like to provide end of life care to children and families during a pandemic

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