While COVID-19 may have brought attention to the essential medical care that nurses provide patients around the globe, it is a special type of nurse that is able to help people without ever being in the same room as a patient.
Sister Amy and her team of experienced nurses are dedicated to helping caregivers and parents. The only difference is that they do it over the telephone.
They offer appropriate and early medical intervention through advice on the dedicated 24/7 helpline service BabyLine, so that parents feel more empowered to make better decisions to look after their children at any time of day or night. Research suggests that telephonic care from qualified and experienced nurses optimises medical outcomes. Babyline, a first-of-its kind service in South Africa that offers telephonic-based triage care, has helped to safeguard the health of over 10 000 children.
“We do this by using pre-qualified checklists when we get a call from a distressed parent. We ask them a few questions to determine what is wrong with the child and then either recommend home-based care, or in severe cases, to rush to the emergency room,” explains Sister Amy.
She explains that sometimes parents simply need support on how to cope with the stressful situation of having a new and tiny human being to care of.
The service is useful for situations or incidents that fall in the grey area between emergency and home care. In at least 70% of the cases handled by Babyline, parents do not need to see a physician or go to the emergency room, and simple home-care is recommended. But care doesn’t end there. The nurses will phone and follow up with the parent to find out how their baby is doing, resulting in parents repeatedly calling BabyLine throughout the first 1000 days of a child’s life for help.
The service is a cost-effective option for parents who struggle to afford to pay for continued trips to medical professionals like doctors, clinics or paediatricians. BabyLine helps to reduce unnecessary trips to a medical professional and because early medical intervention is telephonic, families save money on medical costs.
Q&A with Sister Amy Howes, a registered nurse and midwife at PAED-IQ Babyline
What has the impact of COVID-19 been on BabyLine?
Mothers and fathers often call us regarding their infant or themselves, worried about having caught or contracting the virus. Our job is to help the parents through this, listening to their fears and worries, and help reduce their anxiety. Many of us are facing challenges that can be stressful and overwhelming and cause strong emotions in adults and children. Public health actions such as social distancing are necessary to reduce the spread of Covid-19 but they can make us feel lonely and isolated which increases stress.
Despite the challenges brought on by the virus, what do you love about your job?
It’s exceptionally special for me to be part of another woman’s journey in pregnancy and alleviate any fears she may have. I also enjoy hearing how their babies and children have grown, their meeting of milestones and especially the little ones recovering from sickness. My job isn’t deemed a 9-5. I have over 150 clients on my WhatsApp! I still chat to my clients after hours and worry when I’m not at work about “my” mothers and babies. I am extremely lucky to be in a position that allows me to be part of a woman’s and child’s wellbeing and health.
Did you always know you wanted to be a nurse?
Yes, I have. I’ve always had a love for helping people. I am a very compassionate person, so nursing was a natural career choice. I always wanted to do something challenging, interesting and make a difference in a person’s life. I am vastly happy with the path I followed. I believe I have the best job in the world.
How did you get into nursing?
I’ve been a nurse for over 10 years. I studied at Nursing at Netcare Training Academy and Midwifery at the University of Stellenbosch. I have worked in all departments at different hospitals and clinics but Paediatrics and Midwifery remain my favourite.
Tell us about some of the cases you typically deal with on the telephone at BabyLine
We deal with emergencies – such as respiratory distress, and things not to worry about- such as hiccups. I guide moms and dads with issues relating to a mother’s pregnancy, newborn care, toddlers and children of school going age. I deal with pregnancy gripes such as nausea, heartburn and fatigue. I guide and do grief counselling in relation to abortions, miscarriage’s and stillbirth. I help prepare for birth with pain relief options and explain the different types of births, danger signs in pregnancy and emergencies of what can occur. I deal with newborn issues such as constipation, sleep, winds and colic. I advise with falls, diarrhoea and childhood vaccinations. Everyday is something different.
What were some of your most challenging / interesting cases that you helped solve on the BabyLine telephonic helpline?
I get lot of questions with regards to children eating very strange things. This makes me nervous as there are a lot of hazardous items in a household. The most unusual would be alcohol hand wash, Vicks, snails and dogfood. We are able to determine quite quickly the severity with the help of Poison Control. It is important to put these items out of reach for children.
We also get a lot of questions around feeding issues, such as what to do when a baby doesn’t want to latch, or whether parents can give their baby under six months milk other than breast milk or formula. These are issues that we help guide parents on; both on what to do and what not to do.