Specialist Sister in Intensive Care at University Hospitals Plymouth, Kate Tantam has been named on the Queen’s Honours list and will receive a British Empire Medal for her services to improve patient experience in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Kate has been instrumental in the development of a ‘secret garden’ which, during the acute period of COVID-19, became a dedicated space for patient rehabilitation and staff resilience, providing a sense of normality during a frightening, unfamiliar time.
Kate says all of this has been made possible thanks to the amazing multi-disciplinary team she works with. Kate and the ICU Rehab team facilitate recovery by humanising the Critical Care environment. They created the ‘Secret Garden’ to support rehabilitation in ICU promoting positive mental health for staff, patients and loved ones.
“The secret garden started off as an ICU rehab space to enable patients to feel normal,” said Kate. “So many patients will say the thing they’re most looking forward to when they leave hospital is sitting in their garden, drinking a beer in the garden, sitting with their loved ones outside in the sun; it’s so important. This has now turned into both a staff and patient resilience space.”
At the beginning of lockdown, Kate put an appeal to local florists on social media and the garden was further transformed thanks to a generous donation from the Chelsea Flower Show. The team used their understanding of the importance of outdoor space and being in nature and encouraged staff and patients to utilise the space during an incredibly stressful period.
Derriford Hospital was one of the first in the country to utilise outdoor space for the rehabiliation of COVID patients. For patients, the garden has been an instrumental part of their recovery as demonstrated by Explorer and Conservationist, Robin Hanbury-Tenison who spent seven weeks in hospital with COVID-19, including three weeks under sedation on a ventilator. He publically thanked Kate and her colleagues stating that the turning point in his recovery came when he was able to go outside into the garden.
Reflecting on his time in intensive care, Robin said: “They wheeled me out in a big bed, with tubes going in all directions, just to a flowerbed with a shaft of sunlight coming down into the courtyard. There was a glorious moment when I woke up and was aware that I was back. I felt the sun on my face and the flowers and suddenly I came out of it. I am convinced that’s what saved my life.”
After Robin was discharged, he and Kate were reunited via video link on Good Morning Britain. Mr Hanbury-Tenison said: “I must say one thing, Lorraine, it’s lovely to see Kate’s face because all these wonderful nurses, including Kate, they all had little pointy masks on and looked like space-age people and so, although I knew their voices very well, it is lovely to see at least one of their faces.”