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Heroes of the RUH

Heroes of the RUH – Natalie Clarke

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Meet Natalie Clarke, Phlebotomist in the Phlebotomy Department at the Royal United Hospitals, Bath.

“I first joined the RUH when I was 17 and worked in the sterile services department before leaving to do other roles. Six years ago, I received a call from a friend of my mum’s asking if I wanted to come and do a shift in the RUH catering department. I went that day and have been working at the hospital ever since and I trained to be a Phlebotomist a year ago.

“My current role involves taking blood samples from patients which are sent off to the laboratory so that the results can be used to quickly diagnose diseases and conditions.

“I had no experience but with training and the help of my team it just came to me. I am really proud of the job I am doing now and that I have accomplished being able to do it.”

“2020 was a challenging year for everyone, so I hope this year will be different and that eventually life will return back to normal. I’m really looking forward to being able to go on holiday again and would love to go back to Hawaii.”

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Heroes of the RUH – Dr Andy Georgiou

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Meet Dr Andy Georgiou, Consultant in Anaesthesia and Intensive Care Medicine and Lead Consultant for Intensive Care at the Royal United Hospitals Bath.

“I have been working in the NHS for 18 years. I trained in hospitals across the Southwest of the UK and in Sydney where I worked for the Helicopter Emergency Medical Service. I have worked as a consultant in Bath since 2012 and I’ve been lead consultant for the intensive care unit (ICU) for 7 years.

“I decided medicine was for me after enjoying human biology at school and completing some work experience in a hospital. I qualified from medical school believing I wanted to do surgery, but thankfully a job in anaesthesia and intensive care as a junior doctor changed my career direction.

“My role became much more strategic during COVID-19. We saw the pandemic spreading Westwards in mid-January and immediately started planning and preparing the estate, the staff and our strategy. Our priority was always ensuring our staff were prepared and protected, and ensuring we had adequate capacity, equipment and consumables for our patients.

“Ultimately, we expanded our ICU capacity over 3.5-fold, with plans to expand it over 5-fold if needed. Extracting and filtering relevant information from the explosion of meetings, emails, and bulletins was a huge challenge. However it was vital to do so as it allowed us to stay ahead of the challenges of this pandemic: ensuring adequate staffing, modelling likely patient numbers, supply issues, reconfiguring the estate, ensuring our oxygen supply would meet the demand, finding alternatives to the national shortages of drugs, consumables and equipment, liaising with the estates, procurement and projects teams as a new 13 bedded negative pressure ICU was built in 42 days, all on top of a full time clinical job.

“We were also learning the whole time too – this was a disease unlike anything we had seen before in intensive care and we had to translate this learning into a clear and consistent clinical strategy to ensure consistency amongst our team when caring for our patients. Working long hours, performing high risk procedures and communicating in PPE, as well as working in the theatre environment (as our expanded ICU) has also been tough for all our staff; we have all learned to deal with this thanks to the humility, determination and good nature of the people we work with on ICU. Finally, we have had to adapt our strategic planning as the hospital both tries to catch up with surgery which requires the support of ICU, and prepares itself for what may come next.

“The ‘Clap for Carers’ made us feel proud, emotional, humbled and slightly awkward. Our jobs give us a unique opportunity to intervene in the lives of those who are at the edges or fringes of their lives, and, in most cases, turn that trajectory around. This is intensive care. It is an area of medicine that most people have no concept of, and (thankfully) no experience of. So to see the spotlight shone on what is in many ways the job we have been doing for many years and see it appreciated in such a public way, was a very moving experience.

“I work in a high-end ICU with incredible colleagues. COVID-19 has reinforced my long-held belief that life is precious and that you never know what is round the corner. Looking after healthy people my own age who have become critically ill with COVID-19 has brought this sharply into focus again for me. Now more than ever, I’d advise people that life is way too short to order the Margherita pizza and the house red!”

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Heroes of the RUH – Trina Sharland

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Meet Trina Sharland, Physiotherapist on Critical Care  at the Royal United Hospitals Bath.

“Being a physiotherapist wasn’t always something I knew I wanted to do. My mum was a critical care nurse and I knew I always wanted to work in healthcare, but I didn’t know which profession. I’ve always been sporty and my mum encouraged me to be a physiotherapist – I followed in her footsteps and was inspired to be a physiotherapist in critical care.

“Before the pandemic, families were able to come in and support their loved ones on critical care, but during COVID they haven’t been able to. Therefore, I make sure that we take the time to ring family members and find out any information about the patient, especially when they’re asleep and not able to relay the information themselves. I like to play music when they are asleep, and make sure they have things that are familiar to them when we start to wake them up.

“I’ve seen it so many times when we’ve done a FaceTime with a patient and their family and they’ve been so much more engaged afterwards. They transform and we see their personalities come back and it’s just amazing.

“My favourite thing about Christmas is being with my family. We like to stick to our traditions at home, we always like to stay at home at my parents’ house rather than going away, and we do pretty much exactly the same thing every year. It’s my favourite thing.

“It was only me from therapies working on Christmas day in Critical Care, but my mum very kindly delayed Christmas dinner until I got home that night. ”

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Heroes of the RUH – Jerica Torres

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Meet Jerica Torres, Midwife at the Royal United Hospitals Bath.

“I’m a midwife at Chippenham Birthing Centre and I do my night shifts at the RUH in Bath. What brought me to Bath is that my partner got a new job in Chippenham. So, it was wonderful to discover that there was a birthing centre in Chippenham where I could work as well as at the RUH. I do feel like I get the best of both worlds.

“For as long as I can remember I’ve always wanted to be a midwife. When I was a child, I used to spend quite a lot of time in and out of hospital visiting an unwell family member and for me the hospital was always a really kind of bad and horrible place. But when I found out that women go there to have their babies I realised that there were nice things to come out of hospitals too.

“What I found most difficult during the lockdown as a midwife was telling the women in my care that their families couldn’t come to the antenatal appointments and that they had to attend their scans alone. For many, these were some of the most magical moments of their lives and they couldn’t share them with their partners. It was even more heartbreaking for people that were attending scans when they didn’t get good news and they had to go through that ordeal alone. The pandemic has taught me how important it is for everyone to be kind to each other.

“I started my midwifery career in Devon and love going back there – it’s one of my favourite places on Earth, especially the beaches. Surfing is one of the hobbies that I do in my spare time when I can. If I’m honest I’m more of a fair-weather surfer, though I do brave getting into the water in the winter sometimes!

“This year I feel super lucky not to be working over Christmas – I think it’s one of the first years that I will have the day off. My absolute favorite thing about Christmas is the food (especially all of the different cheeses and chutneys!) and spending time with family. I don’t think anything beats that so I’m really looking forward to doing that this year.”

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Heroes of the RUH – Ellen Rankin

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Meet Ellen Rankin, Nurse in the Resuscitation and Simulation team at the Royal United Hospitals Bath.

“Whilst I am celebrating my 20th year at the RUH this year, I have actually been helping the local community a lot longer.

“Having left school at 16, and embarking on a career as a secretary, I soon realised it wasn’t the role for me and it was a chance encounter with an old school friend that led to me apply to nursing training and I successfully qualified in 1977. Whilst a lot has changed in the subsequent years, with new technologies and the ever-changing nature of nurse roles, the role is still as diverse as it ever was – every day is different and challenging. You never know what you’re coming in to.

“With over 40 years’ experience working in different departments and having four of my own children l now play an important part in helping to train others. For me, having that feeling of enabling others to do things, which they didn’t think they could do is so rewarding – we have staff that come into resuscitation sessions who are anxious and think they can’t do that and to see their faces light up when they leave – their confidence increasing and making a difference for patient safety. I love helping colleagues complete their training, it is really great!

“As for when I’m not at work, I’m a keen gardener and I even took part in the virtual marathon event put on by the Forever Friends Appeal. This is no mean feat, especially as I didn’t include the steps I take at work.

“I’m a big fan of Christmas and I love the opportunity to spend quality time with friends and family. Although this year may be a bit different, hopefully it will only be for this year, fingers crossed next year will be different again.”

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Heroes of the RUH – Rosie Lloyd

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Meet Rosie Lloyd, Senior Sister on Helena Ward at the Royal United Hospitals Bath.

“I’ve been the Senior Sister on Helena Ward since September 2011. When I was 16, I worked in a Nursing Home at the weekends whilst studying for my A-Levels. I knew then that I wanted to be an acute care nurse.

“Helena Ward was the first ward to become a Covid ward in March. Our Neurology patients moved to another ward and as a team we were split across both areas. The logistics of staffing two patient groups in two different areas has been immensely challenging and I would not have been able to do it without my team going above and beyond every step of the way.

“There have been some really challenging times. The most difficult has been supporting patients at the end of their life when their families have not been able to be with them. The chaplaincy team provided us with prayers and poems to read to patients and we have a ward iPhone for video calls. Families have found great comfort knowing that their loved ones have not been alone.

“We have always been a very close knit team and we have all supported each other through the pandemic. A couple of my team started a weekly bake off competition which was a lovely way to help keep morale up – cake makes everything better!

“Being a single parent, at the start of the pandemic, it was quite a juggling act. My children have learnt to become more self-sufficient as I was often working long hours. They would have dinner ready for me when I got home, which was amazing and made me so proud.

“Anyone who knows me well will know that I love Christmas! The patients always have a stocking on Helena. Usually, on Christmas day I come into work wearing my Santa dress and hand out the presents to the patients on the ward with my children. This has been our tradition for many years. I thought it was really important for my children to spend some time in their day doing something nice for others. We’re all sad that we won’t be able to do that this year.

“When I was a little girl, every year, I asked Santa for a train set. My Dad was a train driver and I wanted to be like him! but clearly I was on the naughty list as I never got one!!

“Christmas for me is a magical time of year for spending it with those you love. ”

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Heroes of the RUH – Margi Jenkins

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Meet Margi Jenkins, Matron of the Critical Care Unit at the Royal United Hospitals Bath.

“I have worked in the NHS for 35 years in several roles, after doing her initial training at the RUH. Since 1989 my career has been based around intensive care nursing in Southmead, UH Bristol and the RUH. I have also co-led the set-up of a cardiac surgery unit in Trinidad in 1995 and spent two years as a specialist nurse in organ donation.

“I have been the matron for Critical Care since 2019. I love the one nurse to one patient ratio, due the acuteness of the patients. We don’t know who’s going to come into our unit on a day-by-day basis. It might be patient from surgery, someone who has a severe infection, a patient who has suffered from a trauma. We see so many different admissions in critical care. By the very nature of their admission our patients are invariably quite sick, but we get the opportunity to see to see them get better and sometimes, if not, we facilitate good end of life care.

“This has been a year like no other and my role has become much more strategic as the Critical Care team shifted towards Covid-19. The hospital created a new intensive care unit in 42 days and opened in May. Having a second unit has allowed us to expand our intensive care capacity from 13 to 27 beds, and separate the care we offer to intensive care patients.

“In the beginning it was quite frightening for us all in terms of learning new ways of working with an infectious disease. Even though we watched COVID spread east from China and Italy, we didn’t really know what we were dealing with. However, there’s a specific pattern to COVID and that’s been absolutely fascinating to see how the team have learnt to treat and manage it.

“I love my job and quite often joke that if you saw me down the middle, I’d have intensive care going right through me like a stick of rock.

“I still love nothing more than going up to help the team when I can. I’ve been a critical care nurse for so long, but I still genuinely love it. Intensive care never ever had the profile that it currently has had over the last year in the press. I’ve got to be really honest; I’ve sat and I’ve watched BBC News at 10 o’clock and cried, only because those people who know I work in intensive care, don’t really know what me or most importantly, my team do. Up until this point the public don’t really know what critical care is or delivers. My boys are in their 20s, they’ve grown up with me being an intensive care nurse, but they’ve never really had an insight into my job until now. It has been nice for them to have that insight – I’m incredibly proud of where we work, what we do and achieve and the team at the RUH.

“This year has been all consuming for so many people and in the first couple of weeks of the first lockdown I moved out of my home and lived at the hospital because her husband had returned from a ski trip and was unwell with COVID. She knew she could not afford to be off work at a time when everything was ramping up in the Critical Care Unit.

“Sadly, I missed the first part of lockdown by moving out and my family, even though my husband was ill, they appeared to have a lovely time – family meals, binging on Netflix, quality time spent together. It’s been about enjoying the simple things in life. However, what have I missed and want back. I absolutely love live music and I miss that more than anything in the whole wide world. I had several events booked for this year including the Shamabla festival and Glastonbury, which I go to every year so I really want the vaccine to go ahead. They are minor things, but important for work life balance and well-being!

“I’m planning to work some clinical time over Christmas as it is a great opportunity to be with the team – as a matron on Critical Care, clinical credibility and visibility is really important.

“Christmas is the time of year when families come together. Even though my children are grown up, I still love having everybody around and normally we would all sit with in front of the fire with our dogs which gives me that hygge feeling, it’s just a feeling of well-being and how lucky we are. ”

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Heroes of the RUH – Andrew Owens

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Meet Andrew Owens, Associate Audiologist at the Royal United Hospitals Bath.

“I lost my hearing at birth. I was born prematurely at 26 weeks and the NHS kept me alive.

“I am an Associate Audiologist and started the job four years ago. I thought it would be good to help people who have a hearing impairment like me.

“Seeing my patients every day makes me proud. I know my patients can really struggle, but I try to make their day better.

“I bring Ellie to work with me and our receptionists love seeing her and giving her treats! At night, I take my hearing implant out, so if there was a fire whilst I was on my own, I wouldn’t hear it. Ellie would respond to the alarm and wake me up to help me evacuate. She’s very therapeutic as well, if I’m having a bad day or feeling a bit stressed, she releases that.

“During lockdown, I found it stressful when my patients had to wait for hearing aids. I know that feeling. Being lost without your hearing aid. We produced thousands of packs for patients with information on how to fit new hearing aids themselves.

“This year has made me stronger, because I also lost my Dad. COVID made losing him even more difficult as we had to be socially distanced. Coming to work helps me, as I remember what other people are going through and I know how proud my Dad would be.

“When I’m not at work, I enjoy spending time with my son who is four and a half and walking Ellie. One of my favourite things about Christmas is the food! My son has also just started school so we’ll be talking about the nativity. He gets so excited.”

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Heroes of the RUH – Helen Jeffcoat-Marsh

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Meet Helen Jeffcoat-Marsh, Senior Sister of MAU (Medical Assessment Unit) at the Royal United Hospitals Bath.

“In MAU we see patients who have been referred by their GP or by a doctor in the Emergency Department. It’s a busy working environment and it is surprising as to how resilient you become as there is so much pressure but we keep going. We are a strong team. I love the fact that no day is the same. We treat a lot of people who are acutely unwell and who are in for various reasons and I love the challenges it brings.

“This Christmas I will be working an early shift on MAU which is 7:30am to 3:30pm. I am not a huge fan of Christmas so I am happy to be part of the team on Christmas morning so that at least one other person gets to spend it with their family. I know that this year there will be patients we care for who may not be able to see their families due to COVID and the restrictions. I hope that behind those masks they can see that there is still a smile and that we will make it the best we possibly can for them.

“I started my career here at the RUH as a student nurse in 1992. I qualified in 1995 and worked on a few different wards before joining MAU and it’s been a privilege to act up as a Senior Sister during my career.

“To let off steam and wind down from work I like to go running. The days on MAU are always so hectic so I don’t wear headphones when I run as I enjoy listening to what is going on around me. I love the peacefulness of the canal path and the humdrum of the town. I feel so much better afterwards, it helps me unwind. They say it’s good for your mental health and I would recommend it to everyone. In the summer I was running after work but now its winter I run before I start work. I get out at 5:30am and run 6km before I start my day and I always run 10km on a Sunday morning. In these times more than ever it’s important to remain fit and healthy. My running also helps me to maintain the resilience I need to do my job.

“As I started to get into my running a few years ago my wife said to me why don’t I set myself a challenge and go for a virtual medal. I’m not very competitive and so couldn’t face competing with others. My first medal was a 5km, and now I do a lot of different ones all year round. I’ve done a winter challenge, this November I did one for Halloween, I’ve done a marathon and last year I achieved 500 miles. This year I’m on course to run 1,000 miles by the end of December. As well as winning a medal and completing personal challenges the medals I enter for also donate money to a variety of charities. During the first lockdown back in April I ran for the NHS and all the key workers. 15% of my medal cost went to Bath mind and other NHS charities. My 88 miles that month contributed to the £75,000 raised.”

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Heroes of the RUH – Molly Vowles

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Meet Molly Vowles, Cardiology Day Case Health Care Assistant at the Royal United Hospitals Bath.

“My colleagues call me the ‘Cannula Queen’ – I am really proud of this nickname, the team are great!

“I started at the RUH back in 2014 after I completed Health and Social Care at college. I grew up, and still live on a working farm and so always knew I wanted to do something that cared for others. I thought I wanted to be a veterinary nurse but ended up studying healthcare as the RUH is on my doorstop. I love it here, it’s amazing.

I am a HCA on Cardiology Day Case and help recover our elective patients that come in for heart procedures. At the weekends we also do infusions and I’m on the bank for phlebotomy. It takes me all over the hospital, so I have seen how much everywhere has been impacted by COVID.

“Our patients have had to self-isolate for 14 days before their procedures, so many of them haven’t been able to see their friends or family. I love having a good chat with them and making sure I give them my time. I get to meet all sorts of people which is great. It’s been even harder to do this year, with all the PPE we have to wear, but it won’t stop me.

“This year, it feels like everyone has got closer in the hospital. Everyone has stuck by each other. We’re more like a family, which I’ve noticed a little bit more. Helping each other out. It’s nice to see.

“I won’t be working on Christmas Day, as the unit will be closed. But I will probably be helping my family out with our Hereford and Aberdeen Angus cows on the farm! My puppy, Willow will also be around, but as a pug crossed with a Shit-Zu, Jack Russell and Yorkshire Terrier – he’s not quite the working farm dog my parents had in mind!Meet Molly Vowles, Cardiology Day Case Health Care Assistant at the Royal United Hospitals Bath.

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