Caroline Ellis, a Senior Practice Development Nurse at Kingston Hospital, works in the Practice Development Team, providing education and support to registered nurses, nursing associates and nursing assistants. Here, she shares how her role at the hospital was transformed due to the pandemic and her experience of being redeployed as a COVID-19 vaccinator.
“The main thing I remember feeling back at the start of the pandemic was a great deal of uncertainty about what was to come. Would the team be redeployed? If so, to where? It felt strange to still be heading in to work every morning, while the rest of the world scrambled to work remotely or was furloughed.
“Soon we had some clarity that our team would remain in a support capacity, ensuring that redeployed staff from specialist areas had the skills to care for patients in ward environments. My lasting feeling from these months is pride: pride in a team that very swiftly developed new ways of working. Throughout this period a vaccine was the Holy Grail. When we were asked to help with the vaccination programme, it felt momentous, although like with anything new, there was an element of apprehension.
“The Practice Development Team ran the patient vaccination programme out of the Day Surgery Unit. Like any new service (especially one put together at short notice) there were challenges to overcome – not least in running a drop-in clinic while trying to maintain social distancing. Luckily, as we were already a close-knit team, we knew each other’s strengths and weaknesses. The whole process brought home to me how well the organisation can work together.
“I think what struck me most about the experience, was how isolated many of our patients had become during the pandemic. Many had barely seen family and friends for nine months; some were struggling to come to terms with life-changing diagnoses while being cut off from their usual sources of support. For some, sitting down in the vaccination room was when they really began to process news they had been given earlier in the day.
“When we revived the clinic for second doses three-months later, it was lovely to see people again. Overall, the vaccination programme was something really special to be involved in. In those early days, when COVID vaccines were only just beginning to be rolled out, people were so thankful to be offered a vaccine, and the vaccine offered the first glimmer of hope that life would begin to return to normal.”