Hannah Partridge, Clinical Lead at the Cumbria, Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust, is one of the heroes returning the NHS frontline to help during this pandemic. Here she shares some encouragement for others looking to do the same.

I Just wanted to share my positive to try and alleviate any anxieties that comes of you may have about returning to the frontline. 

The last time I worked as a full-time inpatient nurse was 12 years ago. Since then I have worked in the community and then in trust innovation. Since the pandemic started, all the internal and external work that I had booked in was cancelled and so I offered my services as a nurse to help my colleagues on the frontline. I did politely request any community work in the Sunderland area as this is my comfort blanket. 

To my surprise, I was informed that Embleton Ward (a male acute admission ward in Northumberland) were struggling with staff off due to the virus. I was nervous and anxious about going to back go a ward. But, as a nurse, I put on my uniform – well… I breathed in and squeezed myself into my uniform (I have put some weight on since the last time I wore them) and off I went to Northumberland! 

The ward staff have been so warm and welcoming. I received a great induction to the ward as soon as I arrived and they have been consistently helpful, answering my questions, pointing me in the right direction, reminding me of patients’ names etc. It really is like riding a bike, you never forget, and as soon as you start it all comes flooding back to you. Even my “hospital corners” were on point! (Very proud of my bed making efforts). The only thing that has challenged me the most was the fact that the medication is no longer kept in a trolley – it is now in what I can only describe as a huge, robotic, vendor machine which is operated by fingerprints! I was afraid, very afraid but the Pharmacy staff were brilliant and showed me how to work the robot and the staff are happy to help if I get stuck. 

Even the patients have been amazing in helping me to find different things and keeping me right in the daily routine of the ward. I did think that I would be more of a hindrance than a help but when I did feel like a spare part, I sat with the patients to get to know them a bit more. I got some positive feedback from a patient who found it beneficial that a staff member spent some time interacting with the patients as they have not been able to of late due to being busy with the pandemic. 

I am really enjoying being on the ward and I have rediscovered my passion for nursing on the frontline. It has also been a great opportunity to work with staff who I have never worked with before and it is heart-warming to see all NHS colleagues coming together in these difficult times. We should get out and about on the frontline more often so when there is an emergency like this then we all know what to do. 

Two weeks on 

After two weeks, I am very excited to tell you that my uniforms are not so tight anymore, and my fitbit has not needed to vibrate on my wrist and tell me to keep moving – the steps I am doing up and down the wards are proving great for my health! 

I have now moved on from Embleton ward, as thankfully many staff have been returning to work after self-isolation. So, I moved on to another area where I was needed.  I was quite emotional after only seven days of working on the ward, as they had made me feel welcome and part of the team in such a short time.  They even got me a lovely ‘Thank You’ card and presents when I left.  I will never forget their kindness.  

I have rediscovered my passion for nursing on the frontline

Hannah Partridge, a Clinical Lead at the Cumbria, Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust

My next placement was at Hopewood Park, I was pleased about this as its much closer to home. However, what I wasn’t expecting were the nightshifts. I haven’t worked nightshifts in 12 years (apart from when I had my children, and that felt like nightshift and dayshift rolled into one). I had thought that the long days I had been working on Embleton ward were going to be the death of me. How was I ever going to stay awake for the whole night!? 

Before my first shift, I made sure I had a nap before I left the house and went armed with sugary drinks and caffeine. I met Mark (the Night Coordinator), who really is the nicest person you could ever wish to meet.  He explained what was expected of me and made me feel relaxed, even actually look forward to the night ahead.  He showed me around the site and introduced me to the wards. It was clear that Mark is a very well-liked manager as everyone we came across appeared happy to see him, and he made time to chat to them all and ask if he could do anything to help. 

On the ward I was assigned to, I met Becca, a very young but very competent Band 5 Staff Nurse. I thought I had reason to be nervous and anxious but when I saw her just take charge of a new admission to the ward (who had suspected Covid-19). Instead, I was in awe! Although young, she is very feisty and knows her job inside out. 

Offering verbal reassurance to Covid-19 patients is difficult while our faces are covered with extensive PPE equipment, but the team worked together comfort them.

Having survived my first nightshift, and after only four hours sleep, my daughter came bursting into my bedroom screaming and crying and announced that Terry (our fish) had died! Ordinarily I would have offered my grieving child more sympathy and compassion, but after only four hours sleep, I could not bring myself to feel the same way as she did about a deceased goldfish. I did however offer her a cuddle and solemnly attended Terry’s funeral in the garden prior to my second nightshift! 

I hope this has made it slightly less daunting for you all – the staff and patients will keep you right! Stay safe, good luck and most of all, try and enjoy the experience. 

Find out more about how staff at Cumbria, Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust are going above and beyond in the face of Covid-19.