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NHS heroes - Chynna Toovey

Chynna graduated with a BSc (Hons) in Adult Nursing in 2019 and now works as a Staff Nurse at Poole Hospital.

How did your job role change as a result of the pandemic?

I went from being a newly-qualified nurse (only six months in) on intensive care, to then having to step-up and teach our redeployed staff from other wards how to work in ICU. It was daunting at the beginning, but it very quickly became the new norm for all of us. Covid came quickly and it almost felt as though we went from a single 12-bedded unit, to three intensive care units with enough capacity for 36 patients, overnight. That may not sound a lot, but it made a massive difference to the way we were required to work as a team. Proning patients (mechanical ventilation) became the new normal for us too – the hospital created proning teams that would go around to help us with this. Our usual protocols and ways of doing things changed so quickly, so everyone had to adapt quickly.

What were the biggest challenges of the past year – professionally or personally?

Without a doubt, caring for people with Covid was extremely difficult both physically and emotionally. Most patients started on CPAP, which involves an extremely tight face mask being strapped to them and forceful air being pushed through it to prevent lung collapse. It can be very scary for our patients and of course it’s not nice watching anyone struggle. Another thing I found hard was not being able to care for our patients’ relatives in the way we used to. On the critical care unit, building a rapport with families is something we do all the time – we are the people that can explain what is going on. Visiting was prohibited unless patients were receiving end-of-life care, and so all we could do was have a couple of phone calls a day with relatives. It can be so hard to comfort someone over the phone. We sometimes just weren’t able to provide the gold standard care that we are used to giving, and that was difficult for everyone to come to terms with.

What, if any, were the high points or moments of celebration?

The experience actually brought us all closer together as a team. For me, what got me through was seeing some of our patients that had been really sick with Covid, overcome it. It was incredibly emotional and almost surreal being able to clap for people you had cared for on a ventilator, as they were wheeled out of ICU – now ready for rehabilitation on a ward. Some moments like that will stay with me for life.

How have the challenges of this year compared with the rest of your career to date?

In a way, the only nursing I have ever known is during the pandemic. But I feel all the challenges I’ve faced have made me a better nurse in the long run. I’ve been faced with some very emotionally challenging, as well as physically challenging situations, which I hope will give me resilience going forward.

As 2020 draws to a close, what has this year taught you and what are your hopes for the coming year?

This year has taught me to appreciate the little things, perhaps that I took for granted before. I hope that the coming year will bring a bit more normality in life, a lot less Covid, and maybe a pay rise for nurses too. The last one might be a bit too far-fetched though!