COVID-19: Stories from the frontline

Sarah Dheansa, Acting Head of Nursing for Neurosciences, shares her experiences

Sarah Dheansa v2

“I'm the Acting Head of Nursing for Neurosciences which covers neurosurgery, neurology and also neuro rehabilitation, which is based in Orpington Hospital. That role has changed recently as I was asked to help support our COVID-19 response.

“I was tasked with assisting a senior colleague on a different site (King’s College Hospital) to set up the first ward designated for patients who were pending a positive test for COVID-19. As the situation has progressed I’ve been involved in rolling out our COVID-19 response to other wards and supporting team members through this challenging time. We’ve had to rapidly establish processes and protocols for managing patients with COVID-19 in order to respond to the fast-changing situation.

“Staff are aware of the difficulties in managing patients in full PPE and they understand the impact it has on patients who are scared and unwell. It’s a new experience for all of us and the first few shifts made us realise how isolating and tiring it can be to nurse someone in full PPE while trying to be as safe as possible. However, we were allocated some amazing team players from different areas of the hospital who, despite never having worked together, put in a tremendous effort to make the ward effective. Their sense of camaraderie and focus on doing the right thing for their patients and colleagues made the first few (very long) days a symbol of what is great about King’s and the NHS as a whole.

“Our newly configured team – or, as I like to describe it, our work family – always has encouraging words or just an understanding look to support one another. The mix of kindness, good humour and a desire to make sure everyone safe has made this challenging time more positive than I could have imagined. Our team is a mix of clinical and non-clinical colleagues, with everyone understanding they are important and valued. It’s vital to work as a team, look after each other and recognise when a colleague is struggling.

“As with any difficult situation, preparation and learning is key. Having prepared the first ward to care for patients with coronavirus we applied the learning to subsequent wards. The current situation is very stressful for us all and it is important to remain calm and focus on the good processes we have in place. The situation seems to change every day so we’re all having to be flexible because what we do today may be different from what we do tomorrow. The most important thing though is that whatever we do, we do it well.”