'Fighting every shift' - intensive care nurse's harrowing Covid video diary
- Credit: Brittany Woodman/Lauren Jacques/Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital
An intensive care nurse is the star of a humbling video diary that shows the shocking reality of the frontline battle against Covid.
Lauren Jaques, 32, who has worked in critical care for nine years, tells how exhausted colleagues are "fighting every shift".
In a video covering a 12-hour night shift, the deputy sister at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital's critical care complex, diarises her feelings of anxiety and apprehension and the intensity the team is facing as Covid cases grow.
Miss Jaques, from Cringleford, said: "It was so busy last night. It was intense, it was hard work but we got through it. I don't think we would have done if it wasn't for the team that was on.
"The support from the support staff that we had. It's the same across every shift: the dedication, the hard work is so admirable - it's a privilege to work with a fantastic group of people..
"We are fighting in there. We are fighting every shift to deliver the best care we can to make those who are so ill better. As last night reflected we can't save everybody. It's heartbreaking, it's really, really hard at the moment."
She tucks her hair behind her ear and continues: "It's different from last time. This time the numbers are so much worse. We didn't stop earlier on last year.
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"We didn't stop when lockdown finished, we didn't stop over the summer. We kept going and we kept fighting on and now we are doing it even more."
She filmed the video on her third 12-hour shift in a row last week and described the critical care unit as the busiest she had ever seen.
Before heading to work, the critical care nurse said: "Work's been so busy lately and we are seeing so many more cases of Covid.
"The people that we are nursing are really sick. We're dealing with an unprecedented amount of cases and the unit has been the busiest I have ever seen it.
"I'm feeling a bit anxious. Critical care is an amazing place to work. I know whatever challenges we face on any shift we will get through it as a team."
At work, she begins putting on personal protective equipment (PPE) ready for her shift in the Covid intensive care unit.
She said: "It's quite warm wearing this stuff. It's dry. It's heavy. I know it looks light, just carrying around those extra layers when you are running around can be quite exhausting and difficult to hear people."
The mask goes on, then the goggles. The next time the deputy sister checks back in is at 12.30am, five hours into her shift.
She describes the dryness in her throat, the heat and the tiredness, saying the team had not stopped since she arrived, and were being helped by surge staff from other areas providing "invaluable help".
Miss Jaques said: "I have two lovely surge support nurses working with me and honestly, I do not know what I would do without them."
The team is used to working one to one with patients, but is now looking after four patients each.
She said: "It's difficult. The ICU patients that you're used to working one to one with and giving such a high standard of care, you can't give it as much as you want because you're split between your four patients.
"You almost have to delegate tasks to the surge staff.
"You can see it in their eyes they are absolutely terrified but just having another pair of eyes to watch your ICU patient makes a world of difference."
Covid staff absences have almost tripled in less than a month at the NNUH, despite the number of staff off sick or self-isolating only reaching half of what it was in April’s peak.
Following the end of her shift, she returns home to sleep and ends her video with news she has received her first vaccination dose and urges others to get theirs when they can.