Nursing the Nation follows district nurses on their rounds visiting different homes across the country, creating intimate, affectionate portraits of their diverse patients and their inspiring ability to grasp life in the face of adversity.
In the third episode in the series we are on the picturesque Devon coastline, where Senior District Nurse Ellie and her team look after an eclectic group of patients in their own homes. Ellie has been working in the district for 16 years and leads a team of 14 nurses who look after over 500 patients and visit up to 18 of them per nurse, per day.
Ellie visits Don, an 83 year old with motor neuron disease, who can only talk through a computer. He is one of approximately 5000 people in the UK with the disease. Don’s wife says of Ellie and her team, “We’d miss them if they didn’t come in, because they are like family and we love them a lot.”
Ellie’s colleague Louise, is a mum of two who has been nursing for 10 years. She currently does two days a week and says, “I’ve got the work/life balance right, it’s just a bit manic twice a week really. I need to put the uniform on to feel like a nurse, I’m not a mother for the day.” We join Louise as she drops in on farmer George. George is a diabetic who lives alone in a caravan, and he cheerfully ignores much of her advice, but over the years, they've become close.
There are more than 10,000 district nurses across the country, visiting more than 2 million people every year. For many these are the unsung heroes of the NHS. They develop relationships with patients that can last for years on end and as they see them in their own homes, they often become a huge part of their lives and cornerstones of the local community.
Community Nurse Sarah first met her patient Paul whilst she was working in a Hospital trauma ward. Paul has been confined to a wheelchair for the last two years after an operation to remove an abscess on his spine, but is still determined to live life to the full. Sarah continues to visit him and offer support.
She says, “I feel like we do have a special connection obviously because I know what happened to him in the beginning and also I looked after him so we built up quite a good relationship. It’s nice to continue that whilst he’s at home now.”
With the help of his partner, and his three children, Paul has been able to return to his job as a social worker. Sarah goes on to say, “When I looked after him in the hospital, and then now to see him now, what he’s achieved and what he still wants to achieve, I think he’s really inspirational.”