Today is International Nurses’ Day and, to mark the event and celebrate the contributions our nurses make, we’d like to share some of their stories.
Our nurses have been on the frontline during the Covid-19 pandemic and have also been crucial in the nationwide vaccination programme, and we'd like to thank each and every one of them for their contribution.
After more than 35 years as a nurse at the James Paget University Hospital, Morag Wells was looking forward to a well-earned retirement in August last year.
The 60-year-old from Lowestoft spent what she thought were her last few months in the profession caring for patients on a COVID ward.
She also caught COVID too, spending weeks recovering from the illness.
But, having completed her last shift, she found that her dedication to caring for patients was still present and that she wanted to continue working at the hospital where she started her career as an auxiliary nurse in 1983.
After a few shifts on a ward, an opportunity to join the hospital’s COVID-19 vaccination team came up - and she vaccinated her first patient in December last year.
“It has been such a positive experience,” she said. “There is a great team spirit at the vaccination hub – and the people receiving their jab are just so grateful to have it.”
As well as older patients, Morag has been vaccinating younger patients with severe learning disabilities and autism at a special accessible clinic set up in a self-contained area of the vaccination hub building. The clinic has its own separate entrance/exit and waiting area, complete with comfy chairs and a selection of sensory equipment, to ensure a relaxed environment.
“It’s also fantastic to be contributing to such an historic and successful vaccination programme,” she added.
Despite the current low infection rates in the community and the many millions of vaccine doses administered, Morag said it was really important that people did not forget that COVID-19 remained a serious illness.
“Speaking from experience, it’s grim – and people must remember that. It is crucial that people continue to follow the current restrictions and make sure that they don’t hesitate to get their jab when they are called.”
Morag and Linda
Working alongside Morag at the hospital’s vaccination hub – and in the accessible clinic - is Linda Davis – who also returned to work after retiring in August last year.
Linda, 67, from Belton, has been nursing patients at the James Paget since 1982. She agreed to stay on to help deliver this year’s flu vaccine after retiring from her role within the Stroke Specialist team – and then joined the COVID-19 vaccination programme.
“During my career, I have witnessed first-hand the immense benefits that science and technology have brought to healthcare. When I started my nurse training, the first CT brain scanners had just come into operation – an historic development which really moved patient treatment forward,” she said.
“Now I feel it is a privilege to be involved in another historic moment, as we use safe and effective vaccines to help protect ourselves against the virus.”
When the restrictions of the first lockdown meant that face-to-face clinics for a group of young patients were put on hold, specialist nurse Kevin Barnard came up with a plan to keep in touch with them and their families.
Kevin, 49, is part of the James Paget University Hospital’s three-strong Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) team, looking after patients aged between 5 and 17 with the condition, from a base at the Newberry Clinic in Gorleston.
Together, the team conducted more than 100 socially-distanced ‘door step’ visits to check on the young patients and their families, travelling to homes across Great Yarmouth and Waveney – from Martham in the north, to Southwold in the south.
“It was a time when we really needed to reach out to our most vulnerable young patients,” said Kevin, who lives in Lowestoft and has been a nurse for more than 25 years.
“For some of the patients and their families, being cooped up at home could have been particularly tough, especially if they didn’t have a garden.”
As part of the visits, the team dropped off activity packs, put together thanks to donations from local organisations including the YMCA in Lowestoft, Wilko and other contributions via the Helping James Paget Hospital Facebook page.
“It was a very worrying time but the families we visited were so appreciative – and pleased that we were thinking of them.”
Evangeline Baldwin and Shannon Webster
Student Nurses Evangeline Baldwin and Shannon Webster found themselves right on the frontline of providing care to patients suffering from COVID-19.
Both Evangeline and Shannon are on placement at the James Paget University Hospital as part of their nursing degree studies and are currently working in the busy A&E department.
Last year, during the height of pandemic, they stepped forward after the Nursing and Midwifery Council and Heath Education England asked student nurses if they would ‘opt in’ to help their qualified nursing colleagues.
Evangeline was posted to trauma orthopaedics before a placement in the hospital’s respiratory ward, caring for patients with COVID-19.
This meant that the 27-year-old from Beccles, who is in the final year of her degree course with the University of Suffolk, had to make a personal sacrifice.
“I had to leave my son with my mum for the duration of my placements because I am a single mum and my only support for my son is my mum, who is ‘high risk'. We made the decision as a family to do this and it was at times unbearable but felt like the right thing to do,” she said.
And her work on the frontline during the pandemic has left her full of admiration for her colleagues at the James Paget.
“The experience has shown me that a hospital is filled with people who are adaptable, hard-working – and really brave.”
Shannon, 21, also worked in the hospital’s respiratory ward, where she assisted with all elements of caring for COVID-19 patients, supervised by a mentor.
“One of the moments I remember was being there for patients who were reaching the end of their lives. I was able to give them that extra time and comfort that the busy staff were unable to at that time, even if it just involved holding the patient’s hand,” said Shannon, who is from Gorleston and studying at the UEA.
“COVID-19 is a horrible illness and I saw it affect patients in all ways. However, although it was physically and emotionally draining, the teams I worked with were brilliant and I have made friends for life.”
Shannon’s experience during the pandemic has confirmed her passion for a career in nursing, following in the footsteps of her mum, who works as a paediatric nurse at the hospital.