‘I feel proud’: Redeployed nurses reflect on critical care work during peak of coronavirus crisis

Left to right: BHRUT staff Katie Spillane, Everles Banda, Stella Osei, Ruth Dando and Israel Omojola

Left to right: BHRUT staff Katie Spillane, Everles Banda, Stella Osei, Ruth Dando and Israel Omojola. Picture: BHRUT - Credit: BHRUT

“I feel proud of what I have done.” Nurses at King George and Queen’s hospitals have revealed their experiences after being transferred to work on critical care wards at the peak of the coronavirus crisis.

Katie Spillane, a nurse at King George Hospital who was redeployed onto critical care, wearing PPE e

Katie Spillane, a nurse at King George Hospital who was redeployed onto critical care, wearing PPE equipment. Photo: BHRUT - Credit: BHRUT

Dozens of nurses were redeployed onto the intensive therapy units (ITUs) at the Goodmayes and Romford hospitals as unprecedented numbers of critically ill patients began to be admitted.

Among those to be moved over was Katie Spillane, 24, who was working on Heather ward at King George.

She only completed her nursing training in September and remembered feeling overwhelmed at the start.

Katie explained: “When I was redeployed to ITU, I was very much of the mindset that I wasn’t going to let myself get down in the dumps, I was really going to pull the positives. I think that really shifted my focus and made it feel like a great experience.

“I would never have thought I could work in ITU and now I love it.”

Everles Banda was redeployed to critical care at Queen’s after working as a nurse in the gynaecology outpatients department.

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She recalled: “The first few shifts were really very busy. Every time I got the chance to sit down, I would reflect on what was happening and I would say to the ITU trained staff ‘I take my hat off to you guys’.

“I feel proud of what I have done and the fact I helped and I was there. When I was needed, I was one of the frontline.”

Laura Long, a sister who was one of 70 theatre staff at King George who were redeployed, described it as a challenging and emotional time.

“One minute I was in scrubs and the next minute, the ship had turned,” she said.

“But my attitude from day one was that I just had to do my best and get on with it.”

She said the support of her family helped her come through the challenge.

Laura added: “I feel proud of myself for what I have done.

“At the end of the day, I went there, saw it for myself and did my very best for the patients. That’s something I will keep in my heart for the rest of my life.”

Stella Osei, a lead special screening practitioner for the bowel cancer screening programme, had never worked on a ward despite having spent more than two decades at Barking, Havering and Redbridge University Hospitals NHS Trust (BHRUT).

But she was keen to volunteer in critical care.

Stella said: “It was clear that our service was going to be shut down and I didn’t want to sit around and do nothing because I knew we were going to be needed.

“It was very challenging but I feel proud that I will be able to say in the future that when Covid-19 happened, I was there and I did something to help. I cared for patients who were very sick and who I later saw sitting up and talking.”

Nurse endoscopist, Israel Omojola, was redeployed to critical care at King George and he praised the ITU staff for their support.

He added: “Everyone was working as a team and there was a good team spirit.

“At the end of each shift, the people I had worked with would say ‘you did very well, you managed the situation’. That made me feel happy.”

A training programme for those that were redeployed was designed by Kenye Karemo, director of workforce development, policy and strategy, to equip staff with the necessary skills.

The teamwork shown under exceptional circumstances was second to none, according to lead nurse for critical care services Ruth Dando.

She said: “It got incredibly busy very quickly in critical care and the patients were much sicker than we anticipated.

“It was just so challenging both for the critical care nurses who were working under intense pressure, and the nurses who had been redeployed into such a different environment and were facing a very steep learning curve.

“I was really focused on trying to support and reassure them but it was a huge ask.

“Everyone really stepped up and did their best through some really tough times, and I am enormously proud of the whole team.”

There have been 420 deaths of people with Covid-19 at the trust since the crisis began, while 1,683 patients with suspected or confirmed Covid-19 have recovered and been sent home.