I’m a registered nurse, patient safety manager and safety rep at a local NHS Trust. I’m also branch chair and a member of the RCN London regional board.

I’ve held several roles in nursing, from jobs on surgical wards to forensic psychiatry in both the NHS and independent sector. My current role doesn’t tend to be patient-facing, and I spend a lot of time at my computer. But then COVID-19 hit and everything changed.

An email went round asking if there were any registered nurses who would like to volunteer to be temporarily redeployed to support the pandemic effort, and I offered to help.

An extra ward was set up at a local hospital so that it could take on more people coming out of acute care, but who needed to remain in rehabilitation. The patients in the new ward were in a post-COVID state but weren’t well enough to return home or needed a further period of rehabilitation.

I volunteered because I love nursing. There's something special about being there for someone, and I had missed that in my patient safety manager role.

Setting up the ward

The trust redeployed a lot of people from all sorts of settings and specialties – from support workers in walk-in centres to speech and language therapists. There were also advanced practitioners, who I learned a lot from, so there was a real mix of people and skills. We learned routines from other local established wards, and they brought in leaders to help us set things up and run smoothly. 

We weren't working as separate redeployed staff, we worked as a group

I’ve kept up my mandatory training, such as CPR, as a registered nurse over the years but there were some things I had to update myself on, like using an electronic medical record system, aseptic techniques and medicine administration. But it was a bit like riding a bike, you never really forget those skills and it all came back very quickly.  

The people I was working with were so enthusiastic and supportive, we created a great team, despite the circumstances. We all had our own ideas about how to handle workloads and patients, but we came together to make decisions. We weren’t working as separate redeployed staff, we worked as a group. 

Lessons learned

There was this feeling of being caught up in a massive worldwide, world-changing moment. The weekly applause made me really emotional, but on the other hand, as a stoic and pragmatic person, I believe that part of the job is nursing in stressful situations. We’ve trained for these moments and we know what we have to do in times of crisis.

If it wasn’t for the pandemic, I wouldn’t have met a lot of the people I worked with on that ward. I’m still in touch with some of them. One of the lessons I learned during that time was that nursing is one of the best professions in the world because we can adapt, we’re flexible, we get on in situations where there’s a crisis and we listen to each other. 

I think everyone came away having learned something new

In our ward, we were lucky in that we had plenty of staff with a lot of experience. And if you didn't have that experience, you were there observing and upskilling. That could be anything from how to change a dressing to giving injections, how to do a care round to basic nutrition, or making sure someone didn’t get a pressure ulcer. 

We had such a good base of knowledge and experience that I think everyone came away having learned something new. 

My time on the ward emphasised how important nursing staff are, especially health care support workers and the care and support that they give to registered nurses. They are a crucial part of the health care team.

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