Celebrating our amazing nurses and midwives

Today is International Nurses’ Day and the national Day of the Midwife, when we reflect on the enormous contribution they make to society – and over the past year, this has been greater than ever before.

“I couldn’t be prouder of our incredible nursing and midwifery teams,” said Prof Nancy Fontaine, Chief Nurse. “The way each and every one of you has stepped up to meet the unprecedented challenges of the past 14 months is nothing short of inspirational. You’ve given the most amazing care to our patients in the most frightening of circumstances, supported their loved ones and looked after each other – you are wonderful people!

To mark the day, some of our nursing team explain why they love the profession:

Sarah Leonard, Trainee Nursing Associate in the Children’s Emergency Department, said: “When I was a child I was rather poorly and had many trips to the hospital, which I always loved! The nurses and doctors where always kind and lovely. Now I can give back what so many doctors and nurses did for me and I hope I make patients’ journey a more positive one.” During the pandemic, Sarah was redeployed to ICU, ED, Cringleford and other adult wards. “It was the most stressful yet rewarding nursing I’ve ever done in my life,” she said. “Being able to hold a panicked patient’s hand when being tubed was an honour but very scary at the same time.”

Emma Smerdon, Advanced Clinical Nurse Practitioner in Acute Oncology, said: “As a nurse facing the pandemic and what it may bring was a very daunting prospect and a time of great uncertainty. I have felt very proud to be part of the nursing working force within the NNUH. I have learnt a lot about myself over the last few months and although the pandemic challenged ‘the norm’ we had to find other ways to try and still deliver a service and ensure people felt as supported as possible. The future is uncertain with regards to if we may see an increase in patients with advanced disease but I have learnt that we all have to take things one day at a time.”

Sian Taylor, Critical Care Complex Nurse, also learned a lot through the pandemic. “I have learnt that I am more resilient, strong and determined than I ever believed I could be,” she said. “I have witnessed more love, moral support and camaraderie within our department in the last year than I have ever seen, in any department, ever before. The caring, compassionate and empathetic nature of nurses has become significantly more apparent during the pandemic and, I believe, I am part of a very special profession.”

Helen Hoy, Cardiology Nurse, volunteered to be seconded to ICU during the second wave.

“I saw my colleagues being pushed to their limits and I wanted to help,” she said. “I went for two months and it was like nothing I had ever experienced or seen before. I learned that I can quickly adapt to different situations and you learn a lot about how to speak to families and patients at their worst moments and can help to provide a little ease. The pandemic made me truly realise how resilient and incredible nurses are, situations where changing daily and sometimes hourly and we all just took it within our stride.”

Dawn Smith, a Nurse at Cromer Hospital, also volunteered for secondment. “I volunteered in the first wave to do some critical care training followed by some shadow shifts,” she said. “This made me feel safer. It was like being armed and ready for battle. It wasn’t until the second wave that we were called upon to offer our help to the NNUH but by that time I’d already offered my help with the Covid vaccines and I was helping in the Hub during my holidays. After that I seconded myself there two days a week whilst my department was not working to full capacity. It was great helping with the immunisation programme, especially as we were vaccinating hospital staff; they were all so grateful.”

Vincy Raison Vathalloor, Deputy Sister and Stroke Alert Nurse, said: “I completed my nurse training in India. What I love about my profession is that I have the opportunity to help people in their most vulnerable, unexpected and helpless moments of their life. Being a nurse has given me the opportunity to work throughout the pandemic on the frontline and as part of the surge team in ITU. During these times I have learnt that there are lots of people around us who extend their hands and widen their hearts to support people and nurses play a critical role.”

Lauren Jaques, Deputy Sister, Critical Care Complex, found that the pandemic taught her that she is strong. “Covid taught us all something about ourselves that we will take forward in our careers for years to come,” she said. “We survived. We are family. Perhaps the saddest part of this pandemic is that patients were without their family or loved ones. They said goodbye at the door and they may or may not have seen each other again. As nurses we treated these patients as if they were our sister, brother, mother, father or significant other. We were with the patient during intubation, proning, procedures and even when death was inevitable. We celebrated the wins and cried with the losses.”

Roberto (Rob) Bogyere, Critical Care Nurse, joined as a student nurse to help out during the pandemic under the paid placement scheme, spending five months in Critical Care and a month on a ward. “There was a shortage of staff so we were asked if we wanted to work on Critical Care,” he said. “It was an opportunity I couldn’t miss. But it was difficult – it was really busy. It was busy on the ward too – you were whizzing around looking after nine or more patients and at night it was even busier. There was no time to sit down and it felt like you were just surviving.