Combatting COVID-19 in our Community; Sally-Ann’s Redeployment Story
During these times of uncertainty, extraordinary people are making extraordinary things happen. Nationwide, nurses, doctors, carers, GPs and other healthcare and key workers are re-training, re-deploying, volunteering and even coming out of retirement to join the effort to help tackle this pandemic, and it’s no different at Solent NHS Trust. Our teams of diverse and skilled employees continue to come together, putting themselves on the front line to help the people in our communities throughout Hampshire.
For many, joining this fight is a matter of duty, and for others like Sally-Ann, it’s a deeply personal desire to help in any way they can.
Sally-Ann Belward is a trained Physiotherapist and Solent’s Clinical Lead for Falls Prevention, mostly working with balance problems, treating vertigo and supporting people to stay independent at home. But, at the outbreak of COVID-19, she was one of the first who opted to volunteer her skills and compassion to the cause.
“My usual role means working with older people and I had an inkling that redeployment might be on the cards, it was happening around the Trust. When the request came through, I had such a strong feeling; I knew I had to do something. I don’t have any dependents or vulnerable people at home, so my choice wasn’t going to impact on anyone else. I was also supposed to be on annual leave the first week, but the holiday had been cancelled - I could be available without having to cancel any patients.
Sally is now working at the Southampton General Hospital, as NHS Trusts work together in the battle against COVID-19. Here, she is testing the public, staff and their families for the disease, sometimes swabbing family members and colleagues - people with whom she has a personal connection.
“We were provided with training from Solent’s Infection Prevention Team and have been supplied with PPE (personal protective equipment) by UHS (the University Hospitals Southampton). Initially I undertook the supporting role, observing other staff that had already been assessed as competent.
“To me this feels very close to home. I have tested family members of people that I know and work with and I’m recognising more and more people as time goes on.”
“I’ve not worked at the general acute hospital for over 20 years and the experience has been very humbling. The role is so different to my usual day to day. People from all sorts of different roles have made sure I am okay and that we all have everything we need. A porter even brought us a goody bag of sweets one afternoon. I haven’t had a peanut butter cup before, so there are plenty of new experiences to be had!
“As a team, we have a good system going, and the speed with which the ‘patients’ are turning up is full on at times. We’ve been swabbing up to 37 people a day for COVID-19, every person needs four swabs each. Our first test is usually booked for around ten to nine in the morning. We collect the key to the portacabin and the list of who will be tested that day, then return to the cabin to set up for our shift.
“We work in teams of two so we can rotate and change our PPE. At first, we were mostly testing Adults and were unsure when we were going to be testing children. The Children’s Hospital used to send a paediatric nurse to take the swab, but now we have developed the competence to swab them ourselves. One boy needed a test in order to proceed with his Cancer treatment - I prayed for him when I was back home.
“We have found that we can be a break in the day for people and families in isolation, so we try our best to maintain a cheery disposition and put on a friendly face. Despite the fact these tests can often be quite upsetting, people still share their thanks. It is very humbling to experience the gratitude of these people. They are desperate to be back at work so they can help their colleagues who might be struggling without them.
“It’s hard work, and I am exhausted at the end of the day. When I finally arrive home, I put everything in the washing machine, take a shower and then lie down, ready to do it all over again when I’m needed. Despite the long days, the tears from patients and the sore hands from relentless hand washing, I'm grateful that I’m able to make a difference by carrying out this work. Everyone is giving up so much and I feel privileged to be part of the Solent team, working together with other organisations, like UHS to help with this battle.
“The whole of the NHS is adapting to whatever is needed in these challenging times. I am merely a cog in the system. One tiny part of a large and diverse health service, working amongst those in intensive care and on the COVID wards; the nurses providing round the clock care, and the respiratory physios who are working to aid lung function. As each of us plays our role, we can be proud to say we are part of the NHS.”