9 NHS heroes share their stories from the Coronavirus frontline

While many of us are isolating at home, looking after our families and flicking incessantly through Netflix wondering how we’re going to get through this period of lockdown, there is an army of NHS workers who leave their loved ones on a daily basis to go to work – putting their own lives at risk while they help us fight this pandemic.

“At GLAMOUR we’re accustomed to seeing celebrities and public figures grace the covers of magazines. But for our latest cover, we wanted to take the opportunity to acknowledge and show gratitude to the NHS.

It’s a nod of appreciation to the people who work tirelessly day in, day out to keep us safe and healthy. So as the country cheers them on at 8pm tonight, we’re releasing a special cover featuring 9 frontline workers.

From nurses, A&E doctors, care workers, midwives and registrars to all the people who keep our hospitals running, we want to say a huge thank you.
These are extraordinary times. If anything, recent events have served to highlight what we truly value in life and society. The NHS has always been cherished and never more so than now.”

Editor-In-Chief Deborah Joseph and the team at GLAMOUR
Dr Lauren Jones, 30, respiratory doctor, SHO (senior house officer) on the Covid-19 isolation ward at Russells Hall Hospital, The Dudley Group NHS Foundation Trust

How has the Coronavirus outbreak directly affected your job?

Covid-19 has had a profound impact upon everyone in the NHS, our job roles, mentality and working practices. We have had to become adaptable in our roles, more focused and united as a team to support one another in the common goal of caring for our patients and fighting the Coronavirus.

What has been the most challenging part of the process for you so far?

The Coronavirus outbreak has been challenging for everyone, not only the NHS. It is an evolving global crisis which causes anxiety amongst the public, patients and NHS Staff. But we are a strong, dedicated workforce, with fantastic support from The Dudley Group NHS Foundation Trust making us feel valued and appreciated as employees. There is a true sense of camaraderie – together we feel empowered and will withstand the pressure exerted on the NHS by Covid-19.

On a daily basis we are provided with meals and drinks by the Trust to ensure we are getting good nutrition and hydration; fresh fruit and vegetables have been donated by our local farm. We have been overwhelmed by the generosity of local businesses who are donating food daily for staff. We are updated by the Trust daily on this evolving situation. Many acts of good will such as flowers and cards thanking us for our continued dedication, and not forgetting free parking for all staff!

How are you looking after your wellbeing during this time and that of your family?

The Trust has been incredible in ensuring our mental health and wellbeing is being addressed during this difficult, exhausting time. We are continually supported on the ward, with regular meetings from our Medical Director where we are free to ask any questions we need and additionally raise any concerns we have. We have been offered counselling should we require it and the freedom to contact our Senior Medical Staff and Matrons to help guide us through this challenging time. Our Trust has taken a hands-on approach and shown genuine care for its staff.

For me, my drive and determination to get through this comes from my family and my two very young children – their wellbeing is paramount, and I truly believe that if we come together as a nation, we can beat this virus.

What positives do you think you will take away from this experience

It sometimes seems hard to find positives to take away from such a challenging situation that for many of us seems surreal, but more than ever teamwork has become imperative in the NHS. We are a powerful workforce, but we have to support each other and look after our colleagues. We have to share to workload and keep morale as high as we can, I will never forget the strength some of my colleagues have given me when I’ve felt my lowest and how valued they have made me feel.

If you could give the UK general public one piece of advice right now what would it be?

I strongly advise the public to follow the national guidance provided by Public Health England and the Government. Stay at home to help slow the spread of the virus, practice good hand hygiene and don’t allow anxiety to overwhelm you at this uncertain time. For those going shopping or going to work, it is very important to follow social distancing i.e. keeping more than 2 metres apart. We can beat this together.

Michaela Lydon, 31, mental health nurse at a Tier 4 CAMHS unit

How has the coronavirus outbreak directly affected your job?

There have been a lot of changes made that affect both the day-to-day job for us nurses and also the patients. As mental health nurses are not required to wear a uniform, we have to make sure we are not lax with infection control, so no wearing our hair down, bare below the elbows, no nail polish etc, but no major changes to our dress code. We have some patients in isolation and so when working directly with them we are required to wear PEP gear (gloves, masks etc.) and we are constantly washing our hands (more so than normal, which is a lot!). It is very difficult to implement social distancing within the ward due to the nature of the service. We often need to hold young people with no advance notice and so it is not always going to be possible to run and get gloves before doing so.

What has been the most testing or challenging part of the process for you so far?

Just knowing every day, I am putting myself and others at risk, just by being in close contact with people, which I can’t do anything about.

How are you looking after your wellbeing during this time and that of your family?

In a way, going to work is what is helping me look after my mental health. I am well supported by my team, and it also gives me a chance to speak to others, which most people aren’t able to do during this crisis. I live alone and so without work I would feel completely isolated. Being a mental health nurse gives me a sense of purpose as I know I am making a difference to the children in my care, and so that gets me through most days and even more so in this critical time.

What positives do you think you will take away from this experience?

It is has made me realise how much people do pull together in a crisis. My team have been checking in on one another most days if we don’t see one another at work, and we have received really supportive messages and emails from management in regard to the hard work we are doing. Local businesses have even been very supportive, sending in food packages free of charge to the hospital. These may sound like small things, but they make such a difference, knowing you are being thought about.

I will also take away how important human contact is to me. I have always enjoyed my own company but now I have limited choice I will think twice about cancelling on dinner plans and meeting with friends in the future due to tiredness or laziness. I am also taking away how proud I am of the job I do and how essential they work mental health nurses do is.

If you could give the UK general public one piece of advice right now what would it be?

Please just follow the rules. As much as I love my job, it is scary knowing you are putting yourself in a risky and potentially life-threatening position every day. If you can stay at home and help protect us and our patients, then do that. I know it is lonely and scary, but it will be lonelier and scarier for longer if we don’t abide by the new rules.

Dr Laura Ashton-Edwards, 31, anaesthetic registrar

How has the Coronavirus outbreak directly affected your job?

My normal day job is to give a patient a general anaesthetic and support them during an operation. However, since any elective surgeries were cancelled to prepare for the increase in the number of patients needing a ventilator for respiratory failure as a result of Covid-19, many hospitals have cancelled theses surgeries.

Anaesthetists are some of the few doctors with the skills and training to care for patients on life support, so my time is now spent caring for patients in intensive care. In order to have enough anaesthetists in the hospital 24 hours a day we have restructured our work pattern. I now work longer days, and 50% of my hours are night shifts. Many of us have cancelled holidays to make sure there are enough doctors available for the number of patients we expect – sadly for me this included my honeymoon!

I’m fortunate enough to spend my working life in scrubs (hello comfort and not doing your own laundry). We now wear additional personal protective equipment to prevent the spread of Covid-19, this includes a specially fitted mask, visor, long-sleeved waterproof gown and gloves. This gets uncomfortable during a long shift, the masks leave bruises and pressure marks on your face, the visor can be claustrophobic, and the gowns are super-hot and sweaty.

As a junior doctor, the change in the pattern and nature of the work has broader implications for my career. Interviews for recruitment to specialty training have been postponed, postgraduate examinations and educational days cancelled, those in research posts are being moved to clinical duties. There is anxiety amongst junior doctors regarding what these changes will mean for our career progression, but we are being well supported by Health Education England.

What has been the most testing or challenging part of the process for you so far?

The disease itself, in its severe form, is frightening and because of the job I do, I’m surrounded by it constantly. Looking after critically ill patients is, by its very nature, high risk. I have accepted that I will most likely contract Covid-19. I think we all have accepted that reality. I deal with the anxiety by reminding myself as a young healthy individual, I will most likely have a mild form of the illness. If not, I place trust in my colleagues in the NHS, that they will be there to care for me. It’s a catchphrase, I know, but it’s extremely powerful sentiment for us – we keep calm and carry on. You can’t be paralysed by fear.

How are you looking after your wellbeing and that of your family?

We’re lucky to live in a time where ‘wellness’ is part of the conversation, and that has really trickled down to the world of healthcare. There are resources available from national bodies such as the Intensive Care Society, as well as local initiatives to support NHS staff. Having someone to talk to who understands the stresses and pressures of your job is crucial, and I’m fortunate that my husband is also a doctor and able to relate. We tried the other evening to go a whole hour without talking about Covid-19 and we just about made it!

It is easy to become oversaturated with Coronavirus news, so I try and compartmentalise to achieve balance. On days off I prioritise things that make me happy like going for a run, cooking, and cuddles with our rescue dog Finn. I have been taking advantage of the social distancing and slower pace of life, completing long overdue projects at home, reading for pleasure, tackling the weeds in our garden. Rediscover what makes you happy and what you have to be thankful for!

What positives do you think you will take away from this experience?

There will be silver linings to this large, dark cloud that hangs over us. We have had incredible advances in medicine at times of war. And that is what this feels like, a war where the medics are on the front line. We will see therapeutic and technological advances I’m sure, but I think we will take away more from the experience than that.
Medicine can be very hierarchical, but I’m already seeing these inter-professional barriers fall and cross-specialty partnerships develop. I have seen incredible leadership emerge from quiet introverts who have stepped up when we have needed them. I have seen sacrifice as colleagues have had to move out of their homes to protect vulnerable family members. I have seen consultants, who haven’t worked a full night shift in over thirty years happily adapting to new work patterns, and volunteering for extra unpaid shifts. It’s at times like this that you are reminded that medicine is a vocation, not just a job. We will draw inspiration from one another and be drawn together during this exceptional time. As scary as it is, I’m proud to call myself a part of it.

If you could give the UK general public one piece of advice right now what would it be?

Educate yourselves from reputable sources. There is a lot of information available, it can be difficult to know where to turn, and it can leave you feeling overwhelmed. NHS, gov.uk and Public Health England websites are up to date and accurate.

The importance of social distancing and self-isolation cannot be stressed enough. Many hospitals, including mine, have already exceeded the capacity of our intensive care units and it is still early in the course of this disease. The NHS has taken extraordinary measures, and its staff made large sacrifices, to carry on delivering the excellent standard of care you expect from us. All we ask in return is that you stay home, limit the surge, and help us keep you safe.

Ellie Pantlin, 26, emergency nurse

How has the coronavirus outbreak directly affected your job?

Being a nurse in an Emergency Department can always provide its challenges. However, the current environment is very unpredictable. We are regularly receiving patients who are presenting symptoms of Covid-19.

This has caused the department’s layout to completely change. The resuscitation room, usually for critically ill patients, is now only for query Covid-19 patients. We have ‘purple zones’ which are isolation areas for possible Covid-19 patients and ‘green zones’ which are non-isolation patients.

As a nurse I am used to wearing personal, protective equipment (PPE), the Covid-19 outbreak has caused this protocol to intensify meaning there is a greater demand for equipment. I am permitted to arrive at work in my uniform however, I now must change before I leave the hospital. This is a new, preventative measure to reduce the likelihood of infection.

What has been the most testing part of the process for you so far?

Dealing with change. The way in which we deal with patients is now different to normal. I am growing concerned that my relationship and care of patients is through a mask and I feel less able to build a rapport.

How are you looking after your wellbeing during this time and that of your family?

On my days off I exercise and cook fresh food. I am also contacting friends and family more frequently – sometimes chatting/FaceTiming for hours!

What positives do you think you will take away from this experience?

I feel the team I work with are all amazing. I am so proud of everyone and proud to work for the NHS. Working as part of a team has given that impending doom feeling at work a huge lift. This gets me through each shift in A&E. Being strong, resilient and enthusiastic during this time will be extremely powerful. I honestly believe our emotions influence others’ and if we remain positive, we will surpass this outbreak.

If you could give the UK general public one piece of advice right now what would it be?

Stay at home! If you have symptoms you do not need to come to A&E. Self-isolate for seven days and follow the guidelines on gov.uk. Exercise as much as you can and stay connected to those who matter.

Louise Elgie, 32, care assistant

How has the coronavirus outbreak directly affected your job?

In terms of working practices, of course hygiene is always, 365 days a year, a key priority at our care home, but the Coronavirus has certainly led to extra measures being implemented. For example, some aspects of my care now require me to use a mask and gloves. Hand sensitisation is greater than ever and Craig Healthcare has provided new preventative measures such as portable sinks which are really helpful in ensuring clean hands at all times. There’s also a specially made disinfectant mat at the main entrance of the home which completely disinfects your shoes as you enter. When I get to work now, I also have to spray myself with a specially made cleaning product designed to kill the Covid-19 virus all over my clothes. I then wash my hands and I am ready for the day ahead.

What has been the most testing or challenging part of the process for you so far?

Working in a residential and dementia care home, the lockdown has really affected us on many levels. For example, with our resident’s activities we carefully plan and prepare the resident activity programme but we can’t take them out (we often go to weekly social activities such as visiting garden centres, social clubs etc) and we can’t also bring in specialist providers as well (such as live singers, our weekly preschool class that come to see residents for a chat and story time, activities like that). Families, relatives and friends are also unable to visit which is heart-breaking because their visits are so important, as well as our activities programme, to their mental and emotional wellbeing.

Mother’s Day in particular was hard but we are doing everything we can to ensure we keep residents as happy, relaxed and settled as possible. For example, FaceTime and other forms of technology are priceless to us right now and residents can speak and see their loved ones whenever they want. We are also being very creative with our activities. For example, as the weather gets nicer, we are hoping to do a lot of outdoor activities in our garden. We also recently welcomed a live singer who entertained residents from the carpark of our home! Everyone stayed inside watching from the window while the singer serenaded us for an hour. It was truly wonderful to be able to do that (while sticking to the social distancing rules too).

How are you looking after your wellbeing during this time and that of your family?

From a physical wellbeing perspective, as soon as I get home, I change my clothes immediately and shower to ensure our family home remains as germ free as possible. As a family, we are washing are hands much more carefully and more regularly. I share childcare with the dad of my eldest two children and with going from house to house they too change and shower when they arrive at either house. Mental wellbeing is really important to us as well. When I am not working, I am ensuring we do lots of fun activities as well as trying to home-school too, which has had its high and low points, I must admit!

As a family, we have all enjoyed Joe Wicks’ PE sessions though. That’s been great to do and become part of our daily routine. Keeping a routine despite being at home 24/7 is also vital and this is what we’re doing too for everyone’s wellbeing.

What positives do you think you will take away from this experience?

Because of my job I already do this but, more than ever, I truly will value time with my nearest and dearest. Learning the value of freedom in particular is another positive I will take from this and being able to do what I want when I want to. Humans really do make the world go round and this will definitely impact my appreciation of life more so than before once we move past this period in time.

From a work perspective, we are such a close team with a strong culture, but this has brought us together even more. We are working around the clock, doing everything we can to ensure our home remains Covid-19-free but also working incredibly hard to ensure our residents are mentally healthy and happy. That is our shared value and that’s what drives all of us every single day. We keep each other going by ensuring we take some time out to chat to another when we can. Sharing jokes and laughter is helping too.

If you could give the UK general public one piece of advice right now what would it be?

Please stay indoors and please only leave if it’s absolutely vital. There are too many people on the streets at the moment. The quicker you literally sit on your sofa and remain inside, the quicker we, as a country, can get past this.

Nagla Elfaki, 28, junior doctor in obstetrics and gynaecology

How has the coronavirus outbreak directly affected your job?

Lots of things are changing – our gynaecology ward is moving to make space for a Covid-19 ward, all operations that are not deemed ‘life-saving’ and lots of our clinics are becoming virtual to make space for the huge increase we will see in the need for critical care beds. We’re learning the correct procedures for looking after patients with Covid-19 and trying to keep ourselves safe at the same time. Some of us are likely to be moved to medical wards and ICU to help out, it’s an uncertain time but there’s also a huge sense of camaraderie.

What has been the most challenging part of the process for you so far?

The uncertainty and knowing things may get worse before they get better. For our patients in particular, pregnancy and childbirth can be pretty scary at the best of times so naturally lots of our patients and expectant mothers are really anxious and so we’re doing our best to minimise their risks and reassure them.

How are you looking after your wellbeing during this time and that of your family?

It sounds obvious but getting exercise and being nature always helps, I have a lovely 20-minute cycle to and from work, getting some exercise and with the weather clearing up it gives me some time to clear my head and unwind before walking into the hectic hospital environment. Friends and family have been great and the general feeling of support from the public is really encouraging too. People have been so generous, and we have been inundated with food and letters of support.

What positives do you think you will take away from this experience?

I think a lot of our services will improve and move more into the digital age. There are lots of things that we thought we couldn’t do before – like video clinics and telephone consultations but actually, we are doing them now, they work well, and patients like them too.

If you could give the UK general public one piece of advice right now what would it be?

Stay inside and do your bit by social distancing! But being distant socially doesn’t mean you can’t communicate and connect with people. I also hope that people don’t feel enormous pressure to become productive right now, it’s OK to be more still and look inwards. This is a stressful time for everyone so do whatever it takes to look after yourself and your mental health. I think this is a great opportunity to re-set and re-imagine a future that’s more viable, one where we need less and take care of each other and the planet more.

Dilly Karunaratne, 24, junior doctor

How has the coronavirus outbreak directly affected your job?

Our hospital has split into different zones depending on whether patients are positive or not and based on that we wear a different level of protection for each ward. I worked on surgery before being moved to ITU to help out. We were barely seeing any new patients in A&E because nobody wanted to come to the hospital. I’ve only been working as a doctor since last summer when I left medical school so it’s really rare for juniors like myself to get that experience! It’s crazy.

What has been the most testing or challenging part of the process for you so far?

I live with my parents so that has been hard as I have a fear of seeing my family, my boyfriend, my friends as I’ve clearly been exposed to the virus. The lockdown has been challenging too as all the things I enjoyed to do on my days off to keep me well aren’t there anymore. I’m working longer days so it’s been difficult. It’s been hard dealing with the fear that family members of patients express when their loved ones are in the hospital. Seeing patients when you don’t know if they’re positive or not is also worrying.

How are you looking after your wellbeing during this time and that of your family?

Home workouts, live stream dance class, group video chat with friends, baking wine and nice food and long baths!

What positives do you think you will take away from this experience?

Getting ITU experience during a pandemic is a one in a lifetime opportunity and feeling like I’m contributing to a bigger cause is a positive. Seeing the support within the hospital and outside has been incredible too. When it comes to the team work we put each other’s protective wear on, we eat meals together and we get frequent emails of support from our bosses.

If you could give the UK general public one piece of advice right now what would it be?

Take care of one another. Although we’ve been asked to isolate, we are more than just an individual.

Aaniya Sherwani, 25, doctor (senior house officer)

How has the coronavirus outbreak directly affected your job?

In the NHS, junior doctors in their Foundation Training carry out three four-month-placements each year. I’m currently on a four-month Ophthalmology placement where my day to day job includes tasks like running emergency eye clinics and assisting in ophthalmic surgery. One of the most worrying things about the Coronavirus for us in the Eye Department has been the sheer proximity to patients in our daily jobs. We use a device called a Slit Lamp to examine the eyes carefully and this means we need to get really, really close, less than a foot away, to our patients. This means we’re breathing in the same air as patients and are at risk of getting infections as well as passing them on. To add to the stress, we know that Ophthalmologists are at higher risk of contracting the virus from patients as the very first doctor known to have died of Covid-19 was Dr Li Wenliang, the Chinese Ophthalmologist who first recognised the SARS-like virus in Wuhan back in December 2019. He sadly died at age 33 in February. Stories like his show us that we need to take precautions before it’s too late.

The changes in our department have been slow but we have now started to respond to the threat by minimising patient contact that is deemed non-urgent. For example, elective cataract repairs have been cancelled as well as non-emergency follow-up clinics. Our lovely imaging technician even made temporary plastic shields by hand that we have placed on our slit lamps as a barrier between us and the patient. This is both for our safety and the patient’s. We’ve started to do telephone triage to determine whether a patient really does need to be seen in person or not. Sadly, no one in the department has received any PPE (personal protective equipment) and we’ve either had to buy our own masks on eBay or manage without. Luckily my dad bought me a mask off eBay a few weeks ago so I’ve got one if things get bad!

From April I’ll be rotating onto my sixth and final placement of my two-year Foundation Training Programme. I was scheduled to work on the Elderly Medicine ward but now everything has changed! Our training directors have been working with us to create a new rota so we can best prepare for the tsunami of patients that is going to flood the hospital over the coming weeks. The rota is called the ‘Pandemic Junior Doctor Rota’ – this means all the junior doctors in the hospital will be pooled and pulled to work in whichever department or ward needs us most.

It’s going to be intense, all sense of routine and normality will be lost… it’s going to be like nothing we’ve experienced before. But it’s also exciting. There is definitely a sense of determination and camaraderie among us and we want to do whatever we can to keep our patients safe in this time. At the moment the hospital isn’t that much busier than normal as the increase in sick patients is off-set by closing off of routine non-urgent clinics and operations. But this isn’t making us complacent there’s definitely a sense of something BIG coming. We can feel it – this is the calm before the storm and we’re getting ready for it

What has been the most challenging part of the process for you so far?

A lot of people don’t know this about me, but for quite some time I’ve been planning on leaving my career in clinical medicine to pursue a career in digital health and medical product design. I have always strongly believed that there are so many things that you can do with a medical degree to help people outside of traditional medicine and I felt like I wanted to explore something new. My husband, Yusuf, also a doctor by background, runs a stop-smoking app called Quit Genius which is doing really well these days. We had planned to move to San Francisco for his work and that’s where I was going to train up as a Healthcare Product Manager. I thought I had it all figured out and was getting ready to start a new life in America with him. After much deliberation, I handed in my resignation letter a few weeks ago and it honestly felt like a weight had lifted off my shoulders – I was finally following my dreams, doing what made me truly happy. I was completing my one-month notice period when the Coronavirus pandemic swooped in and all my plans got blown off course. At first it was a seemingly small problem that we thought wouldn’t reach us but day by day the virus spread and the death toll rose.

I went through a really confusing period over the past couple weeks where I began to question everything and each day my desire to return to clinical medicine and treat patients grew. I rediscovered my passion for medicine and remembered why I entered this career in the first place.

When it was announced that the Government would be making a call to retired doctors and nurses to come back and help, I knew I couldn’t leave. I couldn’t jump ship. Not now. Not when there were people who needed me right now. It felt like this is the moment that my years of training and education had led up to, finally the time had come to really and truly help people who need me.

Although it’s been really difficult accepting that months of planning to move to California are now on hold for God knows how long, I feel really positive about staying here in the UK. I know I could have kept my resignation in place and sat in the safety of my own home and I know I’m putting my own health at risk by going into a hospital every day but I feel compelled to do my part. My future plans could wait, I tell myself. It feels like the right thing to do… like this is where I was meant to be all along. I could not imagine being sat at home while my friends and colleagues faced this growing threat without me. It feels like we’re heading into battle and I’m honoured to be wearing the NHS crest on my armour at this time.

How are you looking after your wellbeing during this time and that of your family?

I’ve always been a very spiritual person and so prayer and reflection plays a big part in keeping me sane in these tough times. As a Muslim, I pray five times a day facing Mecca on my prayer mat. Prayer time, even in the hospital, is a wonderful escape. I take a few minutes away from the ward and then it’s just me and God – I can offload all my anxieties and worries to Him and know that, whatever happens, He’s got my back.

Keeping in touch with friends and family is also super important. My mum is an A&E consultant and is my inspiration – Covid-19 has definitely brought us closer as we are constantly thinking about each other and the shared experiences we face in hospital. A daily FaceTime has become part of our routine where we share advice and tips on how to keep clean and safe. My husband and my cats also play a big role in keeping me calm – a cuddle from either of them is enough to relax me!

What positives do you think you will take away from this experience?

For the first time in years I’ve felt a genuine passion for my job as a doctor and it’s given me a newfound appreciation for the wonderful organisation that is the NHS. I mean, the whole country is relying on the NHS staff to keep us alive and fight this virus. As well as the scientists, researchers, police, shop owners and workers. I hope that we will all remember this time when it’s over and I hope that the nation’s appreciation will be reflected in the way we vote, the way we talk and treat each other and the way we conduct ourselves when we go for our routine check-ups in the future.

If you could give the UK general public one piece of advice right now what would it be?

Two things. 1: You can be infected without realising it, i.e. you can be an asymptomatic carrier! This means that you could be infected with Covid-19 and not be experiencing the typical symptoms of fever, headaches, muscle pains or a cough. So make sure you’re still respecting social distancing even if you feel fine.

And 2: This is a new virus, we aren’t sure of its effects yet and we don’t know how each individual person will respond. The media was initially telling us that this is a disease of the elderly or the sick – this is not true. My message is that, it doesn’t matter how old you are, know that nobody is safe. We are slowly starting to hear of the tragic stories of the deaths of young people in their 20s and 30s with no previous medical problems! So, if you want to stay safe, and I know I’m probably going to sound like a broken record right now, please, PLEASE stay at home. We are all working tirelessly to do our bit so please help us by staying indoors and keeping the infection rates manageable. We can’t do it without you!

Claudia Wisdom, 28, labour ward coordinator and midwife at St Mary’s Hospital, Paddington

How has the coronavirus outbreak directly affected your job?

On the labour ward we’ve had to change to wear scrubs that we can leave at the hospital to be washed as we can’t take our working clothes home with us anymore, we have to wear crocs as we can no longer wear material shoes like trainers as the virus lives on material, but you can wipe crocs. We’ve had lots of training sessions on how to appropriately take them on and off.

We’re trying to facilitate as many outpatient appointments on the telephone. A lot of pregnant women are worried to come in as they’ve been named at risk. Scans do continue but they may be reduced if the pandemic becomes worse so we really hope we don’t have to go to phase 2.

We now have to routinely ask patients about Covid-19 symptoms on the telecom before they come into the ward. If we find that women are coming in with symptoms with fever and a cough we have to isolate them in a single room.

When women are giving birth we are still there to provide one to one care in labour but we have to wear full protective equipment. The baby has to stay with mum at all time, which is reassuring for the family.

What has been the most testing or challenging part of the process for you so far?

Staffing issues have been the most challenging thing for me so far and some of my colleagues have had to self-isolate themselves. But also, we have pregnant staff and high-risk people so we need to respect that they also need to be at home and be safe. All pregnant women are anxious and nervous including NHS staff. Many of us are volunteering to cancel our annual leave to support the ward and ensure that we have the cover we need.

I’m still getting the tube every day as it’s the only way I can get to work. It takes me 40 minutes to travel to work every day, But I try not to touch any of the handrails and I wash my hands as soon as I get to work.

How are you looking after your wellbeing during this time and that of your family?

My family are in Devon so I’ve not been able to see them and that’s better so I can protect them. For my mental health I’ve been doing yoga every day, 30 Days of Yoga with Adriene on YouTube. I’m lucky that I live with two friends and one of them is a healthcare worker so we’re here to support each other.

At times I do feel anxious but I remind myself that I’m young and healthy and I should but fine. I feel lucky that while the news portrays death every day I get to see new life every day. I feel happy that I’m contributing to society and that I’m making a different. That really matters. It grounds me.

What positives do you think you will take away from this experience?

The team morale on the ward is good. We have loads of group chats and the public support is amazing. We feel very appreciated and proud of our profession. I’ve seen the power of coming together, supporting people in need, focusing on the positives in life and feeling so proud in what I’m doing and what I’m achieving.

If you could give the UK general public one piece of advice right now what would it be?

My advice would be to stay at home. Keep in contact with friends and loved ones. Motivate yourself to do some form of exercise every day and keep positive. Don’t let the news worry you too much. It will end at some point.


Now we need YOU to get involved and show your support for the NHS. As well as self-isolating, here are all the simple yet effective ways you can support the NHS and make a real difference in the war on Coronavirus… And if you’re an NHS worker looking for support, we’ve also rounded up some of the kickass companies who are here to help YOU.

Become an NHS Volunteer Responder

The NHS is ‘rallying the troops’ with volunteers being called up to help vulnerable people stay safe and well at home. You can sign up here to become NHS Volunteer Responders, delivering medicines from pharmacies, driving patients to appointments, bringing them home from hospital or making regular phone calls to check on people isolating at home.

Give blood

You can still give blood during the pandemic and your donation is vital to the NHS and vulnerable patients. Be sure to read the NHS’ guidelines on how to donate now.

Donate a meal to the frontline staff

The NHS are working gruelling hours right now and are struggling to find the time to shop for food (please stop stockpiling!). Do your bit by donating a meal to an NHS staff member via the London Restaurant collective – a not-for-profit social kitchen made up of chefs and waiters who’ve been made unemployed during the crisis.

Encourage your local vets to donate animal ventilators

It’s no secret that there’s a shortage of ventilators for Coronavirus patients right now so encourage your local vet to donate theirs to the cause; there are around 400 ventilators in use in the UK.

Donate to Beauty Banks

Donate to hygiene poverty charity Beauty Banks, cofounded by beauty editor Sali Hughes, which has already donated parcels of brand new product – both luxury treats and basic essentials – to NHS workers, including the intensive care unit at The Royal Free NHS Hospital.n and kindness.

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