Two lecturers in Operating Department Practise at the University of Bedfordshire have been selflessly donating their free time to work as temporary hospital staff during the coronavirus pandemic.
Samantha Hull and Andrea Thompson chose to offer a helping hand at the region’s hospitals in Bedford and Luton, as well as at Lister Hospital in Hertfordshire. Normally based at the University’s Luton campus with the Faculty of Health & Social Sciences, both were able to volunteer during their spare time and annual leave as the closure of the University’s buildings and transfer to remote teaching allowed them extra time to ‘do their bit’.
Both members of staff have decided to share their experiences with the hope that their stories will inspire healthcare students and future volunteers.
I am a registered Operating Department Practitioner (ODP) who has been qualified since 2001. The ODP oversees the 'perioperative journey', which is the time period of a patient's surgical procedure or medical intervention. The role covers three main areas – anaesthetics, surgical and post anaesthetic care – but can involve all areas within the hospital requiring airway management and stabilising of a patient.
I trained and worked at my local hospital (Bedford) for over 16 years and then embarked on my current ODP lecturers post with the University of Bedfordshire where I’ve been for 5 years.
Once the pandemic hit and the NHS was in need of extra help, I applied directly to Bedford NHS hospital and was fast tracked through to become a ‘bank worker’.
I volunteered as an ODP in my spare time when I had days off from my university work. I completed a 12 hour shift (8am – 8pm) with a few breaks included. I was familiar with staff and my environment having worked there previously, although the 45 minute Covid19 training I received to care for an ITU patient was a little daunting to be honest.
The reward I received for volunteering – both personally and from colleagues – was well worth the negativity I received from my family. They were not too pleased about me returning to practice and were unhappy I might put myself at risk, but they understood why I chose to do it. I felt satisfaction whilst volunteering and being able to give my NHS colleagues a rest by covering their shifts made me happy, as they were working for over 80 hours per week at the start of the pandemic.
I will continue to volunteer with Bedford Hospital in my spare time and be available for them when I needed. Things have thankfully quietened down now, so I have not been needed for a while but if a second wave hits that may change.
I recently wrote a letter to Prime Minister Boris Johnson to highlight this vital hospital role as I feel ODP staff and volunteers deserve public recognition for the services they have provided during the pandemic.
I joined the University of Bedfordshire in June 2015 and I live in Stevenage, Hertfordshire.
When the pandemic was becoming wider spread and the NHS Trusts started to get very busy, I was certain that I wanted to help out. I’d worked in clinical practice for 15 years before taking up my lecturing role and I missed the teamwork and patient contact. I knew that there were risks involved and I was worried about bringing it home to my own family members, but I’m glad that I was able to give some support to the clinical teams.
I applied to volunteer through the fast-track ‘bank’ service which recruits staff on a temporary basis to cover shifts as and when they are available. I was placed at Bedford Hospital most of the time but I also did a shift at Lister Hospital and one at Luton & Dunstable University Hospital.
At the start I was quite anxious to be honest – I was mainly based in the Intensive Care Unit with critically ill patients who had confirmed or suspected Covid19. I had a short induction to the area and although I was able to use a lot of the skills from my own role as an ODP, I was daunted by the amount of equipment needed to support one patient. The staff I volunteered with were amazing though and really helped me to settle in. I was much more comfortable after my first shift and felt I could contribute more to help my colleagues.
My time spent volunteering has reminded me how much I miss the ‘hands on’ care that I used to give daily and it also made me incredibly proud of our NHS and all the staff who work tirelessly to look after so many patients.
I am still keen to volunteer my time by covering some shifts as and when I can at these local Trusts.
To learn how students and staff can get involved with ‘At Home’ volunteering during Covid19, please visit: https://www.beds.ac.uk/volunteer
Students and staff who are interested in hearing about local volunteering news and opportunities should also follow @UoBedsVolunteer on Twitter.
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