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They had never worked together before or even used some of the equipment.

But nurses, midwives and health care assistants came from all over Hull Royal Infirmary to work alongside administrative and ward support staff to look after people with confirmed or suspected COVID-19.

Ward 36, formerly the Elderly Assessment Unit, was appointed one of the COVID-19 wards by Hull University Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust in March, specifically for patients requiring respiratory support.

Now, the last patient has been discharged and staff have moved to work on ward 1 while work gets under way to create a specialist hospital block for patients with COVID-19.

Senior Sister Nikki Atkinson was a sister in the Medical Day Unit when she was asked to take over as ward sister.

She said: “The Ward 36 team had never worked together before.  I came from my role as sister in the Medical Day Unit (MDU) and had never been a ward sister before.

“The other staff nurses and staff were Respiratory Specialist Nurses or worked in Endoscopy, Day Surgery, the Medical and Surgical Wards, the Site Team and Outpatient Departments throughout the trust.

“We also had a “return to practice” nurse who came back to help us through the early days of COVID-19 and two midwives.”

Nikki said only a few of the staff had knowledge of respiratory conditions and had to be trained by the Respiratory Specialist Nurses to care for patients with the virus who were experiencing breathing difficulties, using non-invasive ventilation and drugs to ease their discomfort.

She said: “To set up a Respiratory Support Unit and ward for COVID-19 has been exceptionally hard but exciting in a weird sort of way.

“Only a small number of the staff had respiratory knowledge before this, never mind using the non-invasive ventilation (NIV) equipment before. But the team of Respiratory Specialist Nurses pulled together and educated the rest of the staff.

“Everybody has worked extremely hard and gained the specialist knowledge to care for the patients that we looked after on Ward 36.”

The ward has been closed temporarily to allow the completion of work on the new block for COVID-19 patients. Most of the staff have transferred to Ward 1 in the meantime, supporting the team there to  look after continuing admissions of people with the virus.

Nikki said: “I  am so proud of every single member of staff that I have had the pleasure to work alongside during this time.

“As a team, we have overcome the anxiety of not knowing what was to come and adapted every day to what was being asked of us.

“I would like to thank all the staff of Ward 36 for all support that they have given me throughout this time and the faith they showed in my leadership and direction.

“They have also coped marvellously with another move to ward 1 while we prepare for the next phase, working once more with another team again and managing yet more change and different pressures.

“All I can say they are such a wonderful set of nurses that I have had privilege to work with and I will never forget this experience.”

Beverley Geary, Chief Nurse at Hull University Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust (HUTH), said: “It is never easy when you’re asked to move to a new area, with people you’ve never before.

“COVID-19 has brought challenges to the NHS no one could have predicted and we’re so grateful to our staff who are stepping forward to help.

“We always said our trust was full of Remarkable People. Our response to the pandemic is proving exactly that.”

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