Hannah, a Clinical Lead at the Trust, has shared some words of advice and encouragement for staff returning to work on the frontlines to assist with the COVID-19 pandemic:
I just wanted to share my positive story to try and alleviate any anxieties that some of you may have about returning to the ‘front line’.
The last time I worked as a full-time inpatient nurse was 12 years ago. Since then I have worked in the community and then in Trust Innovations. Since the pandemic started, all of the internal and external work that I had booked in was cancelled and so I offered my services as a nurse to help my colleagues on the frontline. I did politely request any community work in the Sunderland area, as this is my ‘comfort zone’.
To my surprise, I was informed that Embleton Ward (a male acute admission ward in Northumberland) were struggling with staff off due to the virus. I was so nervous and anxious about going to the ward but as a nurse, I put on my uniform – well… I breathed in and squeezed myself into my uniform (I have put some weight on since the last time I wore them) and off I went to Northumberland!
The ward staff were warm and welcoming. I received a great introduction to the ward as soon as I arrived and they have been consistently helpful, happily answering my questions and pointing me in the right direction. It really is like riding a bike, you never forget and it does all come flooding back to you. Even my “hospital corners” were on point! (I was very proud of my bed-making efforts). The thing that has challenged me the most was the fact that the medication is no longer kept in a trolley – it is now in what I can only describe as a huge, robotic, vendor machine which is operated by fingerprints! But the Pharmacy staff were brilliant and showed me how to work the robot and the staff are happy to help if I get stuck.
The patients have even been fab in helping me to find different things and keeping me right in the daily routine of the ward. I did think that I would be more of a hindrance than a help but when I did feel like a spare part, I sat with the patients to get to know them a bit more. I actually got some positive feedback from a patient who found it beneficial that a staff member spent some time interacting with the patients as they have not been able to of late due to being busy with the pandemic.
After two weeks, I am very excited to tell you that my uniforms are not so tight anymore, and my fitbit has not needed to vibrate on my wrist and tell me to keep moving – the steps I am doing up and down the wards are proving great for my health!
Many of the staff from Embleton ward were recently able to return to work from self-isolation, which meant my support was not required anymore and it was time to move on to another area where I was needed. I was quite emotional after only seven days of working on the ward, as they had made me feel welcome and part of the team in such a short time. They even got me a lovely ‘Thank You’ card and presents when I left. I will never forget their kindness and will definitely make sure I visit when everything is back to normal.
My next placement was at Hopewood Park, which I was pleased about as it is much closer to home and meant less travelling. What I wasn’t expecting was… nightshifts! I haven’t worked nightshifts for the past 12 years (apart from when I had my children, and that felt like nightshift and dayshift rolled into one). I had thought that the long days I had been working on Embleton ward were going to be the death of me. How was I ever going to stay awake for the whole night!?
Before my first shift, I made sure I had a nap before I left the house and went armed with sugary drinks and caffeine. I met Mark (the Night Coordinator), who really is the nicest person you could ever wish to meet. He explained what was expected of me and made me feel relaxed, even actually look forward to the night ahead. He showed me around the site and introduced me to the wards. It was clear that Mark is a very well-liked manager as everyone we came across appeared happy to see him, and he made time to chat to them all and ask if he could do anything to help.
On the ward I was assigned to, I met Becca, a very young but very competent Band 5 Staff Nurse. I thought I had reason to be nervous and anxious but when I saw her just take charge of a new admission to the ward (who had suspected COVID-19) I was in awe! Although young, she is very feisty and knows her job inside out.
Despite having to dress up in extensive PPE to attend to the patient with suspected COVID-19, and it being really difficult to offer any non-verbal reassurance with our faces covered by masks, I felt the whole team worked well to comfort the patient who was new to the ward.
Having survived my first nightshift, after only 4 hours sleep, my daughter came bursting into my bedroom screaming and crying, and announced that Terry (our fish) had died! Ordinarily I would have offered my grieving child more sympathy and compassion, but after only 4 hours sleep and the most shocking awakening, I could not bring myself to feel the same way as she did about a deceased goldfish. I did however offer her a cuddle and solemnly attended Terry’s funeral in the garden prior to my second nightshift!
I am actually really enjoying being on the wards and I have rediscovered my passion for nursing on the frontline. It has also been a great opportunity to work with staff who I have never worked with before, and it is heart-warming to see all my NHS colleagues coming together and working together in these difficult times.
I hope this has made it slightly less daunting for you all – the staff and patients will keep you right! Stay safe, good luck and most of all, try and enjoy the experience.