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Case study: 'Nursing is something we feel we are born to do' - Victoria's Story

International Nurses Day 2022

Victoria Hardy, Senior Research Nurse and Wellbeing Champion

As a nurse myself, I think many of my colleagues know by now (because I harp on about it A LOT!) how passionate I am about the profession for which I associate myself wit,h and how immensely proud I am of all my fellow colleagues across the globe who make the world a better place. As the title International Nurses Day suggests, this is a day of recognition for all those who have dedicated their lives, from young to old, to this fantastic vocation. The past two years have seen unprecedented times, and as a consequence of that we have seen countries across the world collaborate in a way we have never seen before, with results we could never have dreamt of previously being achievable. The sacrifices made by millions of healthcare workers has been humbling and for me nurses have been a leading force behind this. 

Nursing is a calling for many, as it was for today's birthday girl, Florence Nightingale. Something we feel we are born to do and with that passion we give it our all, often forsaking our own needs, but at what cost? Even these superheroes can fall foul of Kryptonite. We have seen in the media the rise in reports of stress, anxiety, burnout and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) following the experiences of what healthcare workers were thrust into back at the start of the pandemic in 2020. Having also worked in ITU back then, it doesn’t surprise me and some of you will have heard me refer to my first shift as like walking into a war zone. A reference which this article also alludes to, highlighting research indicating healthcare workers displaying PTSD symptoms like veterans who served in combat. 

Some may call me slightly biased (ok ok, MASSIVELY biased), but I strongly believe nurses have always been the leaders of healthcare and always will be, but it has taken something  so catastrophic as this pandemic to make the nation sit up and realise this.  For International Nurses Day 2022, the International Council of Nurses (ICN) has announced their theme to be just that “ Nurses: A Voice to Lead - Invest in nursing and respect rights to secure global health” focusing on the need to protect, support and invest in the nursing profession to strengthen health systems around the world. Whilst Covid 19 has naturally enveloped all our lives for the past two years, we need to remember that life still went on and there were those who continued on as they were before because life did not just stop because Boris told us to go home. The ICN has launched a compilation of case studies submitted by nurses across the world to showcase the innovative work nurses did every day throughout the pandemic, relating to COVID-19 but to other conditions as well.

And as the saying goes “save the best for last! I want to celebrate the work of our CRN Research Nurses and Delivery Support Team Staff who have worked tirelessly over the last two years and supported ground breaking research trials which have given rise to the vaccines and drug treatment options we have today.

I can remember standing in my bed space with my proned ITU patient and the Consultant coming over to me and saying “ we do not know how to treat this, we do not have the answers, we are simply here to support the body to buy it time to either do, or not do, it is out of our hands''. And with this we both stood in silence, staring at the patients as we processed exactly what this meant and realising we are just as helpless as they are in this fight, as for once, we are not in control.

However, whilst this was all going on, the research superheroes of the world (and yes, that includes us ALL at the CRN), were busy beavering away on Recovery and ISARIC trying to find the answer to these problems. Quite quickly we could hear the buzzing of voices in ITU saying that it looks really promising that dexamethasone seems to be helping, and with this, we felt our shoulders lift slightly thinking that there may actually be a way to fight this. Then next we hear the rumblings on the grapevine that vaccine trials are coming our way and we all down tools and ready ourselves to get stuck in with these. 

The defining moment for me and no doubt most of the research world was when we finally heard those magic words “we have found a vaccine that has shown promising efficacy!” Well it was like all our Christmases had come at once! The cheers and jubilations could be heard across the land! And then we all realised…WE were part of that! WE were the ones running these trials, recruiting the patients, vaccinating the patients and following them up for blood results to find out if there had been any immune response. WE did that and yes, WE ARE AWESOMEAnd our amazing works continue with the antiviral studies and all the other COVID affiliated trials and gradual re-opening of pre COVID trials. 

So to finish, I want us all to take five minutes out of our day today to reflect on the two years that have passed before us and think about the part we have all played in it. We have all had a very busy time and I feel we should all be celebrated as heroes of the research world, without whom we would not be where we are today. Thank you to you all!