Katie Faulkner joined Barnet Hospital four years ago as an agency member of staff and covered the team lead post in orthopaedics. Subsequently, she ran a pilot service in partnership with the Royal Free Charity, which saw her provide physio for patients living with dementia, where she continued to provide treatment in their care home after discharge from hospital.
“Just before the pandemic I’d actually left the trust as I had a fantastic opportunity to support the opening of a dementia village in Dover but that was put on hold. I really struggled being so far away from family and friends in the current climate, and felt really powerless. I just wanted to be back at Barnet Hospital doing what I love. I’m now back permanently and I’m not going anywhere.
“We’re as busy as ever and the job is even more complex than usual. For example, having to wear PPE makes it difficult for patients to feel at ease with us and build a rapport. A person living with dementia may not remember what we did in our treatment session, but they remember how you made them feel. That’s the important thing, and PPE doesn’t help with that.
The patients I see are usually admitted for reasons such as a fall and are unlikely to have stood up since. Then we come along and try to persuade people to get out of bed who are potentially cognitively impaired, confused and frail - it takes skill to build that trust. We also have to bear in mind that there is a huge difference between being safe and feeling safe - our patients are technically incredibly safe, in their bed with the sides up and their call bell in their hand. But that’s not the same as feeling safe. That comes from compassion, reassurance and encouraging our patients to regain their independence - we have to know what matters to them, what makes them ‘them’ in order to support engagement with us and build trust. It’s often a small window of opportunity to take positive risks and support a patient to return home.
Previously, we were able to work with families to bond with patients. If patients saw us bonding with their loved ones then that had an impact. With one lady living with dementia, I’d tried absolutely everything to encourage her to walk. It wasn’t until her daughter revealed she loved Cliff Richard that I was able to get her out of bed because she was happy to dance to his music. That’s the power of families. They know the patient as a person and provide those feelings of reassurance and familiarity, which the visiting restrictions put in place due to COVID-19 took away.
“I absolutely love my job, the team and the patients and their families who I am so privileged to work with. Being able to get loved ones back into their own home after being in hospital is what we are all working towards.”