In the latest in our series of looking behind the curtain of our local NHS, we meet Val Armstrong, domestic assistant for Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation.
From mopping and buffing floors to giving patients a cup of tea, there is more to being a domestic than you may think.
Working, not only behind the scenes, but in full view, domestics ensure hospitals across Northumberland and North Tyneside provide a clean and hygienic environment for staff, patients and visitors alike.
Val has worked as a domestic at Wansbeck General Hospital for 24 years. In 1996, having three young children, and being recently married, she took on the job to bring an additional income into the family home.
“I came to work in the NHS by chance and stayed,” said Val.
“I feel like I know Wansbeck hospital like the back of my hand now. I’ve worked on many wards within the hospital, but I’m mainly responsible for making sure the treatment rooms in the endoscopy department are spotless – I’ve done this for the past 22 years.
“Each member of the team has their own area to focus on but we all chip in together to get the job done when needs be.”
Northumbria Healthcare has 411 domestic staff with 98 based at Wansbeck alone.
Val said: “On a typical day I start work at 6.45am and scrub the treatment rooms to make sure they are thoroughly cleaned and prepared for the nurses coming at 8am to set up their medical equipment.”
However, there is no ‘typical day’ for the domestic team at Wansbeck.
“You never know who or what is going to come through the door and you have to be prepared at any given time. When we have cases of norovirus, for example, we are extremely busy cleaning and disinfecting the wards to stop the spread of infection.”
But, cleaning is only part of what Val and the team do.
“As domestics we are almost always in public view and get the chance to speak with many of the patients who come into the hospital. We bring them cups of tea and biscuits and even get to have a chat with them. It really lifts their spirits – and ours. It’s a really rewarding part of my job.
“Some of the patients see us a number of times a day and comment that we never stop – and do you know what? We never will.”