Your web browser is outdated and may be insecure

The RCN recommends using an updated browser such as Microsoft Edge or Google Chrome

Carmel is a staff nurse on a trauma and orthopaedic ward in Liverpool. She’s also an RCN steward and chair of her RCN branch. Since the COVID-19 pandemic took hold she’s been recording an audio diary of how it’s had an impact on her personal and professional life.

Here you can listen to the full audio diary in three chapters or read the highlights.

24 March

I’ve had a really tough day today. I had an elderly patient come in with a broken hip and symptoms of COVID-19. She was in a lot of pain, was hard of hearing and her eyesight was poor. She must have been really frightened seeing me in a gown and mask coming towards her. Visiting hours are restricted so she was all alone and I really felt for her. I just wanted to squeeze her and tell her it was all going to be OK. But the truth is, I’m not so sure. 

25 March

Over the past few days I’ve had about 250 messages from RCN members frightened about coming into work, frightened about what’s happening with their families, and scared of what will happen if they go off sick. So, I put a little shout out on social media just to say thank you to everybody for being amazing. Maybe it’s my job to try and bring a bit of positivity right now.  

26 March

I’ve just been outside, and the whole street has been clapping. I’m massively overwhelmed and really grateful that people are recognising what’s happening in the NHS and across the care sector. I hope everybody in my branch and within my team has seen this because I think people need a massive uplift at the minute. 

30 March

So yesterday I made the decision to move out of the house I share with my mum, dad, sister and son. I’ve spent the morning unpacking at my other sister’s house, who is also a nurse. So, we’ll be living together for the foreseeable future. I’ve left my family behind so they can be safe and away from infection. And I am utterly, utterly heartbroken.

I’ve left my family behind so they can be safe and away from infection. And I am utterly, utterly heartbroken

31 March

So, I’m just back from work after a long day and I’m tired. Not necessarily because of the workload – we’re actually really calm as we’re clearing beds out now, making space for people with COVID-19 to come in. But our staff team has evolved as people have been moved to where they’re needed most.
It’s made me realise that this is gonna hit. We’re gonna be really, really busy with lots of poorly people and there’s nothing that we can do to stop it. We’re just waiting. And it’s really weird. It’s a bit frightening really.

2 April 

It was a strange day at work today – lots of staff off sick, and people having symptoms. There were also different rules for PPE. An email came around saying we all had to wear masks all the time and to change them every three hours. It’s meant having to re-learn how I communicate with patients.
With some of my mature patients who have difficulty hearing, they rely on looking at your mouth to interpret what you’re saying. I’m quite an expressive person and all those things that you say, you have to try and get across to somebody with your eyes. I’m trying not to be terrifying as I come towards people looking like something out of ET.
But we’re all just doing our best. We’re pulling together and trying our very best for our patients, which is all we ever wanted to do when we signed up for this anyway. 

Carmel’s top tip

3 April

So, I am menopausal, and that means that when I’m at work, I am roasting. So, I wear my hair up in “space buns”. And I kind of got laughed at, you know, called Princess Leia and all that. Well no-one’s laughing now, because I can hook my face mask round my space buns, and it doesn’t ruin my ears. So now everyone’s coming in, in space buns. And the last laugh is on me.

6 April

I’ve woken up to the news this morning that a nurse in Liverpool has died. One of our nursing family has gone. My heart breaks for her family and her friends and her colleagues. It’s so sad, so awful. God bless her.

13 April

We lost four patients on my ward yesterday. When I rang one of my patient’s sons to tell him that his mum had gone, he thanked me for looking after her. I think that was more upsetting than the whole thing to be honest. She died alone with no visitors because nobody could come in to see her, and we had to say goodbye for the family. 

I am tired and emotional. But trying to stay positive at work for my colleagues. When you get in the shower after your shift, you have to have a little cry. I know everyone is being amazing and the love for us is really uplifting, but when it comes to the wee dark hours, I’m just really sad. I think maybe at some point I’ll get really angry about this, but I’m not quite there yet.

14 April

Bit more positive today. I’ve had the day off, so I’ve had time to recharge. I had a long lie in and spoke to my son on the phone. Then we had to do some errands, so I actually saw him from the gate posts and that was nice. I also sat and watched some rubbish telly and did nothing that involves any brain work. I just feel a bit better and ready to face what’s happening for the rest of the week.

My head is telling me to be sensible, that I have worked during this crisis and I have helped some people. But my heart's really sad

15 April

So, I had a text this morning from my GP to tell me that I’m in a high-risk category and that I need to isolate for 12 weeks. I knew it was coming, and now I don’t know what to do. If it was anybody else, I’d be telling them to stay at home and keep safe. But I’m a nurse, and I need to be nursing my patients. I need to be with my team. But I also need to keep myself safe for my son and my family. I’m really conflicted, and I don’t know what to do.

20 April

I showed my text to my senior staff, and the decision was taken out of my hands. I was told to stay home and isolate for 12 weeks because of my high-risk health problems. And so here I am. I feel awful and like I’ve really let my team down. I feel guilty for not being there in this awful time to help my patients and my team. 

I am relieved that in a couple of weeks I can go home to my son, and my family, and be able to look after them again. But I feel guilty about being relieved. It’s really overwhelming, and I just feel like a big failure. I just want to be a nurse, and to do the best I can for people. I really feel like I’ve let everyone down.

My head is telling me to be sensible, that I have worked during this crisis and I have helped some people. I can do things from home, and I can help with the RCN. I can help my team, and the team morale, from home over social media and in our messenger groups. But I know that it’s not the same. My heart’s really sad. Sometimes I wish I could listen to my own advice, but I’m not very good at that. I’m just overwhelmed and want to see my son.

Read next