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54,000 admissions a year requires huge team effort

With more than 54,000 admissions last year, the Emergency Department at Arrowe Park Hospital is one of the busiest areas of Wirral’s hospitals. Caring for so many people requires a huge team effort and Sandra Stanley, is just one of the many individuals who help the department to function. She has worked in the Emergency Department for almost 18 years and is more passionate than ever about the service they provide.

As Reception Supervisor, Sandra manages a team of 15 people who provide 24/7 cover 365 days a year on the Emergency Department’s reception desk. Winter pressures mean that the hospital is in the middle of its busiest time of year, which brings a whole range of challenges. Although they are not clinical staff, Sandra’s team are important cogs in the overall machine and are often the first point of contact for people who arrive at the hospital.

As well as supporting colleagues on the front desk, Sandra has other wide ranging duties including sending letters to GPs when patients are discharged, organising staff rotas and liaising with the police if they require information about a hospital admission. She also helps to input financial codes, which impact the hospital’s funding.

Sandra was one of the many NHS staff who worked on Christmas day and really enjoys her job. She said: 'I really like working with the public. Although the general structure of my day is the same, the nature of our department means that every day is different.  Sometimes the people that we are dealing with are distressed and we do our very best to reassure them and genuinely mean it when we say they are in the best hands. We aim to treat everyone as we would want our own family member to be treated and can empathise with what they are going through.

'Unlike visiting the GP, people are often feeling at their worst when they come here. Most people are very respectful but there are some occasions when we have to deal with aggression. Being shouted at can be upsetting but we try not to take it personally and have a great security team who intervene if someone’s behaviour is unacceptable. If people have a long wait to see someone, I understand it can be frustrating. It isn’t always obvious how busy the department is; it may seem reasonably quiet in the waiting room when in reality staff are extremely busy behind the scenes responding to life-threatening emergencies that have come in by ambulance. There are many different reasons why someone may have to wait to see a doctor but people are always prioritised appropriately and we have everyone’s best interests at heart. Most realise that we are trying to the best job we can in often difficult circumstances but if we’ve had a tough day, we talk about it as a team and have excellent support from management.'

Sandra herself has first-hand of experience of being a patient, having recently returned to work following treatment for breast cancer. While off work, Sandra was adamant that she wanted to stay involved with her team and despite her manager’s initial reluctance, insisted on doing the staffing rotas from home. She explained: “I was diagnosed in December 2016 by the Breast Unit at Clatterbridge Hospital and had surgery at Arrowe Park Hospital the following January.

'It was important to me that I kept my hand in and doing a bit of work really helped me mentally while I was going through chemotherapy at the cancer centre. It gave me a focus and provided some normality, which I really missed during my time off. I’ve had brilliant medical care and the support and encouragement from my colleagues has been equally important. I still have tired days but everyone is very understanding. Being diagnosed with cancer was a huge wakeup call and it has made me appreciate every day more. It feels good to be back; I still love working in the Emergency Department and I doubt that will ever change.'

Sandra’s colleagues have all been impressed with her strength and determination and recently nominated her for a Trust PROUD Award in recognition of her dedication to the job. Her nomination said: “It is so difficult to think of specific times when Sandy has gone above and beyond. She always covers extra shifts at very short notice, supports her team and assists patients out wherever possible instead of passing them on to someone else... I cannot put in to words how dedicated Sandy is to her role.”