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Wessex nurse shares experience of nursing during the coronavirus pandemic

Wessex nurse shares experience of nursing during the coronavirus pandemic

At the start of the coronavirus pandemic, CRN Wessex Research Nurse Ruth Jackson was redeployed to work in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) at University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust. In this interview, she discusses her experience of working in ICU, the importance of research and why she's proud to be a nurse.  

Tell us about your normal role and a typical day prior to the COVID-19 pandemic? 

Normally, I work in the primary care research team at CRN Wessex. I’ve been there since June 2019 and I work on a number of different primary care research projects as part of my role. I’ve been involved in studies for conditions like childhood eczema, chronic kidney disease and irritable bowel disease. I’ve also worked with the University of Portsmouth Dental Academy on a dental public health study. My role centrally involves providing research nursing support to GP practices across CRN Wessex to ensure patients have the opportunity to participate in research, and studies recruit to time and target. 

How has your role changed as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic? What are you working on now?

I’ve been redeployed to work in the Intensive Care Unit at University Hospital Southampton because I am a trained neuro ICU nurse. At first, I was quite anxious, partly because I'd been away from ICU for about a year, but also because I knew that I wouldn’t just be working with neuro ICU patients, as the critical care department is working as one team combining with cardiac and general intensive care speciality units.

Additionally, I was obviously concerned about COVID-19. Concerned about both potentially contracting the disease and how the virus would impact and change our role as ICU nurses. However, I had always enjoyed my nursing role in ICU before, so I was looking forward to working with my old team again.

Since my redeployment, my working week has entirely changed. I have predominantly worked in neuro ICU caring for trauma patients, however I have also been moved to Cardiac Intensive Care, where I cared for cardiac and general intensive care patients, and to General Intensive Care, where I was caring for a patient who was recovering from COVID-19. I’m working two 12 hour shifts a week in ICU and then trying to keep up to date with my research role for one day a week.

What has the experience been like so far? 

COVID-19 has changed how we work quite significantly, especially with all the Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). Getting used to working in all those layers, masks and hoods has been difficult, however there are always people to assist you with the donning and doffing. Additionally, we have had to get used to finding out which unit we are working on the day then being allocated patients in a cohort.

A lot of nurses and health care support workers have come back to help and there's quite a positive feeling there. Everyone’s being very helpful and supportive and there has been excellent teamwork. It’s also been lovely meeting other nurses from a wide variety of other clinical areas who have come back to help.

How did you first become involved in research? 

My background was working as a staff nurse in neuro intensive care then I moved into neuro research. Research had always been something that I was interested in, so it seemed like quite a natural transition. In my neuro research role, I worked on studies for a number of conditions like epilepsy, intraventricular haemorrhage, subarachnoid haemorrhage and traumatic brain injuries. 

I was in this role for a couple of years but after having children, I went back to my clinical staff nurse role in neuro ICU. Once my youngest child started school, I decided to go back to research but this time in primary care at CRN Wessex.

It's been really interesting to compare primary care research with some of the intensive care hospital studies. They’re obviously different ends of the spectrum and it’s been really exciting to work on both. I’m really enjoying a different challenge and the variety involved in primary care research.

Why do you think research is important? 

Research is so important to develop our knowledge base and treatment options around medical conditions and disease. Research helps us to improve and progress nursing and medical care. It’s especially important during the COVID-19 pandemic.  Research will help us to evolve our knowledge of the virus and, more importantly, help us to develop prevention and treatment options.

Your reflections on the Year of the Nurse and Midwife 

I feel privileged to have worked with some brilliant teams during my nursing career both in ICU and clinical research and I have been lucky to have had so many supportive and helpful colleagues. I am proud to be a nurse especially during this time when the value and importance of our roles is so clearly demonstrated.

The views and opinions expressed in this interview are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of the NIHR, NHS or the Department of Health and Social Care.