Colin Jones shared some of his experiences working as a rapid response nurse at Arrowe Park Hospital:
When the NHS put the call out for health professionals to return to practice, I had that sense of “I should do this”.
The last time I was in clinical practice was five years ago. In terms of the NHS, that’s a massive amount of time because things change so rapidly and there are always new techniques and procedures to learn.
I’ve worked in a variety of different areas in the hospital and the staff have always been so supportive. It makes you realise that this is what a student must feel like when they go out into practice. It also shows that if you create the right atmosphere for people even at a very difficult time like the COVID-19 crisis then people can achieve an awful lot.
We very rarely get to work with our student nurses out in practice. I’ve actually found myself out on wards where we have LJMU student nurses or I find myself buddying up with an LJMU nurse who has recently qualified and they’ll say “I remember you. You’re one of the lecturers.”
We end up working together and it's a very unique and terrific situation – I’m now almost the student on the ward, as they teach me how it all operates.
We’ve all had to wear levels of PPE that I’ve never had to wear previously for eight, ten and twelve-hour shifts. That was something I perhaps wasn’t prepared for but it has now become the norm.
At the start we were learning about the virus quite slowly. All of the essential treatment plans were activated for patients who present in a particular way – perhaps with breathing difficulties or infection – but all of the time little specific aspects of the COVID infection were presenting themselves on things like blood results, x-rays and scans. We had never seen this before.
The most difficult situation and one I’ve never faced before is the fact that we no longer have visitors in the hospital. You’ve got nursing staff, medical staff and everybody involved in the care of the patient but no family allowed to visit them. You have awful situations where there are people who deteriorate and die and their families can’t be with them. That’s something I had never faced before on the job.
NHS care staff are there to do a job, and that's what we honestly believe – that we are all just doing our job. This is what we came into, so nobody perceives themselves to have any heroic qualities.
I’ve witnessed an awful lot of support at ward level in clinical practice. Also, I see that all trusts have designated personnel or departments responsible for caring for staff mental health and positive wellbeing which is a really good thing. Likewise, at LJMU we have a huge focus on student mental health.
This has shown me that something very positive can come out of something very negative. We now have a different type of knowledge and we can bring with us a different perspective on some of the challenges that face us – not just clinical but also being supportive of colleagues, working in teams, how to develop resilience, being kind to yourself and taking care of yourself.
There are always lots of things you can learn from experiences like this and it's important to always remember that something good can come out of a terrible situation.
You can hear Colin talk in more detail about working on the NHS frontline during the pandemic in this episode of 1823 Podcast. If you've been inspired by Colin's story of helping our NHS on the frontline, perhaps you could make a difference in health care. Take a look at courses within nursing, midwifery and paramedic science.