Rebecca Rowley organises activities to keep morale high

Rebecca Rowley, Activity Coordinator on Wards 1 and 3 at Doncaster Royal Infirmary (DRI), has been keeping energy levels high throughout the pandemic by organising activities which are both highly enjoyable, and hugely beneficial to the health of patients.

Known to colleagues as ‘Becki’, the Doncaster resident has put on a wide variety of events over the three years that she has been working for the Trust, with the vast majority aimed at enhancing the nutrition and hydration of patients, as well as preventing them from becoming frail whilst staying in hospital.

Pre-COVID, events organised by Becki and her colleagues used to predominantly take place in the Dayroom situated within the ward. This was also where patients could make cards, paint, sew, and take part in many other activities that were both entertaining and social, offering an opportunity for individuals to get up and about safely.

Due to recent limitations, Becki and the team have had to come up with additional activities that are one-to-one, to ensure the safety of all those on the wards. Thinking creatively, they have been able to provide patients with the equipment so that they are able to paint from their bed, as well as offering them regular crosswords, and similar word puzzles, as well as other activities for the patients to keep their mind and body active.

Speaking about her role, Becki said: “It’s so nice to make a difference to somebody’s hospital stay – I have had quite a lot of patients in the past say it is the one thing that has kept them going whilst they have been here – which makes all of the effort to organise and come up with ideas so worthwhile.

“Everything we do is a huge team effort, and the staff on here are brilliant. They are also really supportive as well with activities and when I was in the dayroom, they would bring the patients down in their wheelchairs or walk them down, they are fantastic. Obviously, as a result of COVID-19, things are different, but the team still do all they can to support our events and ensure we are looking after patients, both in terms of their acute symptoms, but also their general health and wellbeing.”

Rebecca Rowley sitting with a patient

In order to gauge what activity might work best for each patient, Becki speaks to every individual to find out their past interests and hobbies. Where patients are unable to provide her with this information, Becki will contact their family to find out about what they may enjoy, ensuring all her patients experience the benefits that these events provide.

Becki continues: “It’s all about getting to know people – coming into hospital at any age can be scary and so we have to do all we can to make people comfortable. These activities are just one way we can do this, orientating people into the ward environment, helping people to socialise, as well as taking the focus away from just about bodily symptoms and related treatments.”

A particular favourite of not only the patients but also Becki herself, are tea parties which take place most weeks. These parties are thematic, based on what is relevant at that time of year.

In total Becki has organised over 80 different tea parties during her time as Activity Coordinator. Some of these parties are based on traditional days of celebration, such as Christmas, Easter, and Halloween, whereas others are more extraordinary like those based on the film Mamma Mia, or one celebrating Mad Hatter National Day or even Elvis Presley’s birthday.

By engaging in these activities, the patients are keeping their mind busy, increasing their strength by being more mobile and ultimately helping reduce the likelihood of falls, increasing their nutrition and hydration levels, as well as providing a little extra comfort and enjoyment.

The activities form part of the Trust’s adherence to the ‘Enhanced Care’, which means taking the time to provide meaningful interactions with patients through intellectual, creative, functional, physical, social, and spiritual activities.

Becki is also the Dementia Champion and Health and Wellbeing Champion and works closely with the Nutrition and Link Nurse to ensure that the tea parties, drinks, and snacks are always appropriate for the recovery, hydration and nutrition of the patients.

Speaking about the work of the Trust’s Activity Coordinators, and Becki specifically, Abigail Trainer, Director of Nursing at the Trust said: “I’ve experienced the creativity and organisation of one of Becki’s events first-hand and was totally blown away by her dedication. The amount of work put forward to organise these events is truly phenomenal and are often the highlight of the week which both staff and patients look forward to.

“At this Trust we are lucky to have so many colleagues who go above and beyond in their duties every single day, and Becki is no exception. Throughout the pandemic it has been hard to look beyond the challenges of COVID-19, but the work that is ongoing on Wards 1 and 3, as well as elsewhere across our hospitals, reminds you that our incredible staff continue to do the very best for patients day in and day out – coronavirus or not.”

With help from various benefactors both internal to the Trust and externally, Becki’s stepdad Colin Turner, who she claims bears an uncanny resemblance to Santa-Claus himself, has visited the hospital during the festive period dressed as St Nick. Sue Turner, Becki’s Mum, has made appearances on the Wards dressed as Mrs Claus, whilst Becki’s partner Pauline, has starred in the role of Chief Elf. The Wards fundraise in order to be able to buy bags of chocolate, or other such items, and then treats the patients to a Christmas gift, each coming directly from Santa himself.

However, due to the current situation with COVID-19, Christmas may look slightly different on the Ward this year, but there are still plans to ensure that the festive cheer is rife on Wards 1 and 3.

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