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HATS nurses support over 1,200 families a year

Thu 30 Mar 2017

Many families find themselves frightened, isolated and confounded by medical jargon. Headway Acute Trauma Support (HATS) nurses provide support to families during this unimaginably stressful time.

The HATS nurses can provide emotional and practical support, offer a listening ear, act as a link between the medical teams and the family, and signpost people to other support services such as the Headway Emergency Fund.

Here, Alex Power, who has been a HATS nurse in the North West of England for the past five years, shares a typical day in her role in order to provide insight into the vital work of the team.


I check my messages before setting off to a meeting at one of my hospitals. I have an email from Hannah who lives abroad. Her mum is in hospital here following a fall, and she needs information and support. I email her back, reassuring her that I will phone later today.


I attend a neuro-team meeting at the hospital. We discuss current patients, planned care and other issues including how family members are coping. I inform the team that there is a patient’s husband who is struggling to afford petrol to travel to the hospital, and is very anxious. As a result, I have helped him successfully apply for the Emergency Fund; he now feels that ‘one worry is off my shoulders’.


I meet with a neuropsychologist to discuss how we can work together to support patients and families. We talk through Headway services and I show him our literature and website. He seems impressed.


I catch up with Joyce and Tony over a cup of coffee. Tony, aged 70, had a brain injury three years ago. He is now living at home and attends his local Headway branch, but he needs a lot of support and Joyce is tired.

She has told me before that while she was overjoyed when Tony returned home, she did not realise it would be so hard. Joyce is unable to speak about her feelings when Tony is there, so I make a note to call her tomorrow and talk things through.


I visit the critical care unit to speak with Derek. His daughter Emma was struck by a car two weeks ago and had a bleed on the brain.

He hoped she would be getting better by now, but although her condition is stable, it is not improving. I explain some of the clinical terminology to him, and we talk about the possible issues Emma may experience as time goes by. I give Derek some Headway factsheets regarding the early stages of brain injury.

He tells me Emma’s mum passed away just six months ago, and he doesn’t think he has the strength to get through this. I sit quietly and hold his hand while he cries. There are no guarantees for Emma’s future, but I will try to support Derek for as long as he needs.


I head back to the office. I often use this time to think through the day. Derek’s situation has left me feeling quite sad, so I contact a colleague for support.


I call Hannah back, and she tells me her mum will need long-term care when discharged from hospital. I inform her about Headway’s Approved Provider scheme and direct her to our website for units in the area.

As Hannah cannot access support where she lives, we discuss the Headway HealthUnlocked forum and I give her the number for the helpline. She can contact me or use these resources for help and information
anytime she wants.


I write up my notes for the day and message Derek to say I will visit again in a couple of days. He replies, thanking me for being there and stating he doesn’t feel quite so lost anymore.


HATS nurses can:


Please note, names have been changed for confidentiality reasons.


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Headway - the brain injury association is registered with the Charity Commission for England and Wales (Charity no. 1025852) and the Office of the Scottish Regulator (Charity no. SC 039992). Headway is a company limited by guarantee, registered in England no. 2346893.

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