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Nurse’s experiences on the coronavirus frontline – in her own words

PUBLISHED: 14:44 30 April 2020 | UPDATED: 16:05 30 April 2020

Sister Mel Griggs has worked at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital for more than 20 years. Picture: Brittany Woodman/NNUH

Sister Mel Griggs has worked at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital for more than 20 years. Picture: Brittany Woodman/NNUH

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Sister Mel Griggs has worked at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital for more than 20 years and manages a team of 50 people on Gunthorpe Ward. For the past month, she has been on the NHS frontline caring for patients fighting the coronavirus. Here is her story in her own words.

Sister Mel Griggs has spoken about her experience working on the NHS front line during the coronavirus pandemic. Picture: NNUHSister Mel Griggs has spoken about her experience working on the NHS front line during the coronavirus pandemic. Picture: NNUH

“I have never experienced something similar in terms of the planning across the hospital.

“I can say that myself and the team have broached this challenge from day one. We decided to keep positive and always support each other.”

Preparation

“I feel we prepared well for the outbreak – as soon as we were informed we would have to look after very unwell patients, all of my staff and myself did additional training on NIV (non-invasive ventilation), tracheostomy care and blood gas analysis.

Sister Mel Griggs has worked at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital for more than 20 years. Picture: Brittany WoodmanSister Mel Griggs has worked at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital for more than 20 years. Picture: Brittany Woodman

“Learning these new skills has been vital and helped us freeing up beds taking up patients into the ward from intensive care. For this reason, I am really proud of the team’s attitude and the way we are all pulling together.

“We have also had other colleagues like the respiratory specialist nurses and the outpatients nurses joining us and their support has been great too. I believe the team is closer than has ever been.”

Yellow ward

“Working on a ‘yellow ward’ is of course very challenging also because families can’t visit their relatives who are under our care.

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“But we go the extra mile to keep regular contact with the families, using for example iPads, and we also allowed some patients’ relatives into the ward, wearing the appropriate PPE provided by us, to say the last goodbyes to their loved ones.

“It is extremely sad to see some of the very poorly patients passing away and we often share our thoughts about them as a team.

“But we have also discharged patients to their home and residentials and it’s really heart-warming to see when they leave the hospital and to receive cards from their relatives.”

Clap for carers

“I never felt so much appreciation from the public in my whole nursing career.

“I remember at the beginning of the lockdown it was challenging to get food.

“So, I went to one of the supermarkets who has a dedicated NHS hour and the manager welcomed me at the front of the store with flowers. It was a wonderful gesture and such a big morale boost after working a long shift on the ward.

“When I am home, I often think about my colleagues, they know they can text me anytime. But I also make efforts to switch off, trying not to watch too much media coverage apart from the daily Downing Street bulletins.

“The rest of the time I relax by doing exercises, reading, or talking over the phone with those friends I’m not able to meet at the moment.

“That’s my way to keep healthy and strong to make sure I’m there to support my colleagues and do my best for our patients.”


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