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Health academics return to working in the NHS in a bid to overcome Coronavirus outbreak

7 Apr 2020 8:00AM

Health staff from the University of Suffolk are preparing to work in the NHS to help to overcome the Coronavirus outbreak. 

Many of the academics in the School of Health and Sports Sciences remain registered health care professionals including Lecturer in Adult Nursing, Peter Brown. 

Peter joined the team at the University of Suffolk straight from clinical practice and has a background in emergency and critical care in the acute setting. He has continued to work in emergency care at Colchester General and Ipswich Hospital. 

Peter, like some of his academic colleagues, will be going back into practice full time. He said, “At present, I am being asked to support in Critical Care which means looking after patients on the Critical Care Unit who are ventilated. The vital and necessary PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) makes things very difficult – you are constantly aware of it and can’t just go off to find the drug you need, for example. I always feel slightly anxious before a shift, I really want to deliver excellent care and give patients the best possible experience and feel my own sense of pressure to try and achieve this. I have no reservations other than I acknowledge that PPE has not always been accessible especially in the early stages of the pandemic response. I would expect my colleagues and I to be protected. I feel locally, at least, there has been a significant change here in the acute setting.” 

Peter has undertaken training to specifically care for Covid-19 patients in terms of new guidance on resuscitation. He added, “I have also attended training at a local trust and have been learning how to manage equipment and technology (ventilators, filters, monitoring) which is different to what I have used in the past. The Critical Care Unit team at Ipswich have been extremely friendly and are grateful for the support and there is recognition that everyone can bring skills from their experiences.” 

Across the UK, people have been encouraged to take part in the weekly ‘clap for carers’ event, in recognition of key workers. Peter said of this, “It is a really kind gesture and participating in the applause in my village has caused me to feel emotional as I hear my neighbour’s recognition for the work that is being done ring out into the evening. However, personally, I don’t like the identity of ‘hero’ status, people are making sacrifices in their own ways all over the world and mine is no greater.” 

Final year students from the University of Suffolk will be joining the NHS early under emergency measures outlined in the government’s Coronavirus Bill. Peter said of the students, “I have genuine admiration and respect for our students. This must be the most difficult time in modern history to be a nursing student. I think our students are amazing, they are totally dedicated to the profession.”  

“Getting to know some of them, I can vouch that many have triumphed against adversity just to be on the course. I know how keen they are to be in practice and share their abilities and skills and to learn new skills; however, these are exceptional circumstances in which to do so.” 

“My mentor once said to me, “What is nursing to you? Replicate that thought in your care and remember why you chose nursing”. So, my message to our students is that- remember your reasons for applying to the course and never lose sight of your core values. Also, if you ever need to take a break, take it. If you ever need to escape, escape. My colleagues and I will always be here for you; you have excellent friends from this course, either in practice or from your cohort – use each other and support each other always. Together we can achieve so much for the NHS no matter what comes your way. You are doing an incredible job.” 

Fellow Lecturer in Adult Nursing at the University, Rosie Kearton, is already on the ‘frontline’ working in Critical Care at Ipswich Hospital. Rosie’s background is in critical care and respiratory nursing.   

Rosie said “In terms of preparation, I have been on a ‘Critical care refresher’ programme at the trust and a general trust Registered Nurse Covid-19 update day.  I have completed two shifts so far in Critical Care and I’m volunteering to work around 25 hours a week for the next few weeks or months.” 

“I did have some reservations about returning to practice, but the preparatory training has helped.  It’s a very steep learning curve but I do have the clinical background and knowledge to support this.  I am also passionate about the learning I will take from this going forward when training the future generations of nursing students at the University of Suffolk.”  

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