Zara Zaman, general surgery nurse on East Ham Ward at Newham Hospital, writes about her experience being redployed to ITU to look after patients with coronavirus.
A totally new area
On 29th March 2020, I was preparing my work bag in the evening (just like any other day), when I had received a message from one of my nursing seniors that I had been redeployed to Intensive Care Unit (ITU). I was instructed to report to Intensive Care Unit at 7:30am where I will meet my new matron.
A sudden sense of anxiety took over me. The ward which I had been working in for over a year now, was suddenly no longer the place I was going to be working anymore. In a couple of hours, I will be working in a completely new area and of all the places, Intensive care unit where I have no background in a critical care setting. I felt underqualified and very anxious because I didn’t know what to expect. The only information I knew was, the ITU unit at Newham had increased in capacity and we will be caring for patients who are the sickest in the hospital and are all testing positive for Covid-19. The very virus that has caused a global pandemic.
Beeping machines, intubated patients and full PPE
I was given a very simple instruction: Grab a clean set of scrubs and report outside ITU where you will need to undertake a risk assessment. You will also receive a formal 2 week training in Intensive Care. This is a course that is often undertaken at university across a six month period, but due to the unforeseen circumstances we will all receive escalated training.
My first day reminds me of how I felt as a first year student going into placement. I was entering a new environment, with a new team and into a new speciality. I was so anxious to see patients who were being affected by Covid- 19, but didn’t have time to really process my thoughts. When I began working in the unit, I was surrounded by beeping machines, intubated patients (on the wards all of our patients are awake) and of course all of the staff members were in full PPE, which meant I couldn’t see or recognise anyone. There were a lot of changes I had to quickly adapt to and it felt very overwhelming.
However, I was very grateful that my worries and doubts were settled when I was introduced to a very welcoming team. The ward manager for ITU was wonderful and understood the nerves I felt. On my first day, I was immediately paired up with two Intensive Care Unit nurses who were excellent teachers and keen to orientate me to the new environment. Every shift following on, I have always worked with an ITU nurse and have began building positive working relations with the team.
Getting the right support
Furthermore, I have been progressing with my training. The ITU PDN and matron have been working really hard to ensure redeployed nurses to ITU are supported both educationally and mentally. Whilst we didn’t receive 2 weeks formal training, the education team have been working hard to ensure our training is brought up to speed. We have also received a competency booklet which informs of the different skills we need to know when working in ITU. We also have been encouraged to use wellbeing services offered by the Trust to ensure we are receiving the right mental health support, which I believe has been great in dealing with the big changes made to nursing in the hospital.
Whilst redeployment was a scary and overwhelming process, I have received amazing support from both PDNs Louise Brandman and Mary Thomas and matrons Annamma George, Mark O’Halloran and Elizabeth Abrahim in ensuring that the transition from working as ward nurse into Intensive Care setting is as smooth as possible.
I vision myself progressing my work in ITU and hope to continue playing my part alongside my fellow NHS colleagues in combating this virus and getting our patients well again.