Since Covid has entered our lives we have all had to find new ways of working. Life has also shown us how much we had previously undervalued key roles in our society. After all where would we be of course with out our NHS, but also supermarket workers, carers, dustmen, postmen, teachers and police? Many of which we take for granted. They have helped to keep our lives as normal as possible, many with little praise for what they are doing. Perhaps now we really understand who ‘key workers’ are?
In many organisations it is the people at the front that will receive the compliments. At a restaurant we will always thank the waiter, but sometimes forget about the team that created the meal! Whilst at hospital we will of course thank the doctors and nurses, but what about the health care assistants who do the ‘heavy lifting,’ or the cleaners we rarely see.
Today I am honoured to be able to share the thoughts and experiences of Bekki @Bekki Pobgee who tells us what it’s like to work on the front line of oncology, helping prostate cancer patients with their radiotherapy. Pointing out that sometimes it can be difficult to get the respect due, from inside her own organisation. I have heard this issue spoken about many times regarding the NHS, and I can’t help but wonder why?
“My name is Bekki, and I’m a radiology support worker in Sussex. I’ve been working in the NHS for coming up to 7 years. Working in various roles, healthcare support worker, healthcare assistant, oncology assistant and radiology support worker. They all have similar names, but we do what it says on the tin. We’re here to care, assist and support, not just our qualified colleagues as the name suggests, but also our patients. I’ve always been very passionate about providing outstanding care to my patients.
But it wasn’t until I started working in Oncology that I realised just how important our role was in supporting patients. The roles I’ve been lucky enough to take on, have always been in the lowest pay band in the NHS. We haven’t been to university to train for our roles. On the whole, we were hugely appreciated by both staff and patients, but there was always a sense of hierarchy, and that we were “only the band 2’s”.
I spent time working within the radiotherapy department, calling patients through for their treatment. Most of my time I spent working with prostate cancer patients, attending for treatment 5 days a week for around 7 weeks. I loved the rapport I built with my patients, hearing about their adventures and families. There was a huge camaraderie between the patients. After settling in and having a group of patients I had grown familiar with, I began to notice when asking my usual question “How are you doing today?”, that I could sense when something was wrong, but they didn’t want to tell me.
This pained me, and I’d go home thinking and worrying about those patients. Obviously, I couldn’t force them to tell me what was wrong, but I desperately wanted to help. The next day, I changed my question to “How are you? Can I help with anything?”. Thankfully this was enough for them to confide in me, tell me their problems, and consequently, I could take action to help them. Whether it was something simple I could help with directly, referring them onwards, or even me nipping to a doctor while they had their treatment to get a prescription, to help with side effects.
I’m extremely lucky that I have settled in a new job role in a new hospital, where, even just as a band 2, we are hugely valued by everyone. I currently work as a support worker in a radiology department, primarily in the CT and MRI scanners. It’s my job to bring patients through, go through safety questions and put a cannula in if the patients are having contrast. I am always saying, cannulating patients is the best bit of my job, because I have some amazing conversations with my patients. Most of the time, it’s about the weather or politics, the usual small talk. I’ve had many giggles with patients, a few we’ve even both been crying with laughter (which have been some of my favourite!!)!
Sometimes my patients see my cannulation chair as a safe space, away from any family or friends, a totally confidential, non-judgemental environment where they can open up. Many times, I’ve been a listening ear or a shoulder to cry on. Prior to COVID, I’ve even given the odd cuddle. I feel so privileged that my patients see me as someone they can open up to and offload, and that’s exactly what I’m there for.
We may not be university trained, and we may not be able to help you directly. But we are here to emotionally support and point you in the right direction. No question or concern is silly. We are here to listen to you and help you in any-way we can and we are more than happy to do so-its why we’re here, and why we do the job we do!
I want to thank Bekki for sharing her personal views and experiences about her role in healthcare. Also take this opportunity of thanking EVERYONE working in the NHS doing their best to keep us safe in such challenging times. Sharing experiences is what this site is all about. If you would like to share yours, please feel free to get in touch below or via the email link above.