“We found strength we didn’t know we had” – Croydon nurse praises “superhero” colleagues for their work during the height of the pandemic

By Tara O’Connor, Local Democracy Reporter

A nurse said her and her colleagues “found strength we didn’t know we had” during the first wave of the coronavirus pandemic.

Croydon University Hospital was one of the hardest hit in the country in the spring – at one point there were 250 Covid-positive patients at the hospital, and overall 300 people died.

Ward sister Marion Spence described her team as ‘superheroes’ at a Croydon Healthwatch meeting on Wednesday.

The trauma orthopaedic ward she works on became “overwhelmed with Covid-19 patients”, she said, adding: “I had to remember that we weren’t only nurses, we were human, and fear was now the common denominator.

“I was constantly having to troubleshoot on all forms of nursing care for patients, and even provide pastoral care for staff.”

Staff as well as patients were dealing with the uncertainty of the pandemic and unpredictable nature of the virus.

And things were made more difficult with staff being off sick or having to quarantine for 14 days.

Ms Spence said: “It required a remarkable amount of strength and flexibility as we were dealing with a limited workforce, the manpower was at a low ebb.

“The routine of care which was once semi-predictable became extremely unpredictable.”

Ms Spence said that luckily for her team there was enough PPE, but staff were struggling with the unknown nature of the situation.

She said: “The elements we had to deal with every day became catastrophically immense, I was truly firefighting, having to ensure the ward was in line with government guidelines.”

She described Covid-19 as an “isolating disease” as patients were not allowed visitors.

Ms Spence said: “Saving our patients’ lives was the main goal, and reducing risk of exposure for both patients and ourselves.

“We huddled in the morning, not just for patient handover but gathered for emotional uplifting, we reflected on work we could do better and we bonded and strengthened our camaraderie.

“When I reflect back, it propelled a superhero in me, I found strength I didn’t know I had, the whole team became avengers of Covid-19.

“It was unreal, I am sure that many people thought it was going to be the make or break of them in their career.

“We had to compartmentalise our emotions to get through the day. It taught us to be resilient and taught tenacity. It gave us a different outlook on what we were, we were brave.”

As of Wednesday there were 10 Covid-19 patients being looked after at Croydon University Hospital – a much lower figure than the high numbers seen earlier this year.

Matthew Kershaw, the hospital’s chief executive, said: “Coronavirus can be a very serious condition and there’s still no vaccine, but we’ve learnt much more about how to manage patients with Covid.

“The numbers are relatively low and we hope that continues, but if it doesn’t, as it has done in the North-West, we are prepared and ready to be able to respond to that.”

Pictured top: Marion Spence




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