There are more than 10,000 district nurses across the country, visiting more than two 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.
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 fifth episode in the series we’re in rural Yorkshire with District Nurse Michelle. Michelle has lived and worked in the community for the past 10 years and works in a team that tries to help frail people avoid being taken into care.
She says, “There’s a lot of community spirit. People help out and support each other. For me community nursing was a definite because I like the one-to-one. I think people are grateful for the services that we provide; knowing that someone is there to support them, in a time of need.”
Michelle has a new patient who needs her help: Wendy is an 86-year-old widow who keeps falling in her own home and badly hurting herself. Her most recent fall left her with sixteen stitches in her ear. Michelle starts to investigate the problem but persuading Wendy to co-operate with her advice proves to be an unexpected challenge. Together they need to find a way to keep Wendy independent and in her own home.
Elsewhere, recovering patient Deborah and her fiancé Bob are adapting to a new way of life. Six months ago they were due to be married when Deborah contracted a rare form on pneumonia which almost killed her. After three and a half weeks in intensive care not able to move, her limbs lost circulation and in order to save her the doctors had to amputate the fingers of her right hand and both her legs below the knee. With the help of Bob, and a team of District Nurses, she is determined to walk again on prosthetic legs.
One of the nurses in the team supporting Deborah is Beth. She says, “I’ve been doing this job for a long time, for 25 years or so. I have come across patients, younger patients, that have had amputations before but what was surprising in this case was that it happened so suddenly to her. It is a very cruel world I think. I’m sure she will walk. She’s got her wedding as a goal to work towards. She’s certainly not feeling sorry for herself. She’s just getting on and making the most of life.”