Sarah Turley, who joined the CHECT Team in October 2019, is our part-time Support Worker based in Birmingham Children’s Hospital. She shares with us what it’s like to be a CHECT Support Worker during these unusual times.

A headshot of Sarah Turley

Six months after starting my role, I never could have predicted that my working week would look as different as it does now. COVID-19 has changed all of our lives and made us readdress the ways in which we communicate with one another.

Initially it was very challenging not meeting families face to face. Being unable to chat and see with my own eyes how everyone is feeling has meant that as a Support Team, Lesley (Support Service Manager) and I have had to get creative – and more technological!

After checking emails, texts and voicemails from the weekend, I read our Facebook messages and contact an anxious parent in response to some concerns they have about their child. I then phone a family about a Macmillan grant we have previously discussed, and then complete an online form requesting for help with funds for travel and kitchen equipment.

Next is a call to Lesley about our upcoming Teen Focus Council meeting in June. I message the group on Facebook to schedule a pre-meeting around their ideas and to draft a brief agenda. The teens are quick to reply and enthusiastically agree to meet up online during the week.

Occasionally we receive enquiries from families outside of the UK. This morning I received one such enquiry and was able to message the family with some information about where they might find support locally to them.

Every week I have a meeting with staff from Birmingham Children’s Hospital via Zoom which is led by their clinical psychologist. These catch-ups allow me to understand how EUA and outpatient appointments are working whilst I am working from home, as well as talking through ideas to help support our families.

I then contact families who have been in for an appointment to see how they are and if there is any support I can offer – information about online shopping slots, suspending bills and furlough information are discussed, as well as starting to research some benevolent funds to help families who need urgent financial help.

I’ve got ten minutes to choose a book for ‘Storytime’ and to think of a simple craft idea for our children to try their hand at. We have nine families online today – with lots of siblings. It’s the highlight of my week so far – lots of waving, smiles and great listening!

I catch-up with a family I had called earlier on in the week, who are currently shielding, to see how they are coping with isolation. We use the GOV.UK website to enlist them for priority online shopping.

We also discuss how to keep their child occupied during chemotherapy and EUA appointments now that there is no longer access to toys within the hospital. I am able to tell them that the Play Worker will be on site for support.

Next, I attend our weekly Zoom meeting with the whole CHECT team – it’s great to see the team and hear some encouraging words! Both Lesley and I stay on to talk to our Teen Focus Council (TFC) about inviting teenagers from the Birmingham Children’s Hospital service to join us on Zoom – they come prepared with great ideas.

Following our meeting, I draft some documents for the teens to look at and amend. I contact more families by phone, text and email to check in and help with any practical things they may need, as well as referring to other services or charities.

I then join ‘The Health Based Youth Workers Conference’. Here, I get to talk to other Youth and Support Workers about how they are providing support, sharing good practice and some great online resources – this is very helpful when thinking about creative ways to work with families and young people whilst we are unable to be face to face.

This morning I have a long chat with one of our long-standing members, I am able to signpost them to a great local service for some information.

I then attend Birmingham Children’s Hospital’s Multi Disciplinary Team meeting with all of the clinical staff. It’s a great way of keeping in touch with the Rb team and remaining connected with the hospital even when working remotely.

For our final ‘Storytime’ of the week, we have a birthday! A rowdy Zoom rendition of the ‘Happy Birthday’ song, staggered and out of tune finishes my working week off perfectly!

Both Sarah and Lesley are still available by phone, text, email and Zoom for support with anything , even if it’s just a chat. Visit the support page for their contact information.