Orla’s just one of our team who has stepped up to the challenges that Covid-19 has presented this year. She tells us about the changes she’s embraced during her time at Transform Hospital Group.
“After graduating university with a BSc(Hons) Biomedical Science in November 2019, I was eager to pursue a career in a clinical environment, as I much preferred the experience of a patient facing role over the isolation of the labs! After stints of part time hospitality, volunteering, and admin work as a student, I jumped at the chance to interview for the position at Burcot Hall Hospital in Bromsgrove.
I joined the team in February as a Pre-Op Healthcare Assistant. Initially, I shadowed the clinic nurse, soaking up the knowledge I’d need regarding our cosmetic surgery and bariatric procedures.
I really enjoyed learning the ropes from my clinician and administration colleagues, spending time in clinics, consultations, medical records, and even spending two days observing procedures in theatre! It was great to become familiar with the entire patient journey, from the initial consultation all the way to the recovery room after surgery. Within my first week I was also sent on a venepuncture course at The Pines Hospital in Manchester, which helped me apply my theoretical knowledge to practical skills.
I then progressed to taking blood, swabs, contacting GPs for referrals, and liaising with anaesthetists and the Resident Medical Officer prior to signing patients off as suitable for surgery. The support I received in my first few weeks, particularly when conducting some face-to-face pre-ops on my own, was amazing, and all the staff made me feel really comfortable in the professional and efficient environment.
When the Covid-19 pandemic struck, though, everything was up in the air, because of course elective surgery was no longer taking place. Understandably, with no role to carry out, I was furloughed, just like millions of workers across the country.
Unknown to me, though, in the background Transform Hospital Group was making plans to help the NHS during the pandemic. Through its partnership with NHS England, Burcot Hall was soon welcoming cancer and step-down patients through its doors, and I was thrilled when the company contacted me at the start of June to ask if I would consider returning as a Ward Healthcare Assistant.
In the clinic I’d been doing pre-op health assessments and phlebotomy, as well as recording patients’ BMI and blood pressure, so I was initially unsure of what to expect in adjusting my role to suit the ward environment, but I didn’t have to be asked twice and soon I was back at the hospital.
I’ve been really impressed by the sense of community on the ward. Burcot Hall is a ‘cold’ site – meaning that it is a Covid-free facility – so we all help each other to ensure we keep it that way by adhering to strict infection control procedures. I’ve got to know many of my colleagues really well because of the time we’ve been spending together, and it’s been lovely to be able to build such strong relationships with them.
I’m part of an amazing team. The other Healthcare Assistants and nurses have been wonderful mentors and I’ve learned so much. Healthcare Assistants on the ward require such a vast array of skills, including preparing the rooms, admitting patients, scheduling post-op observations, and monitoring fluid intake, all to ensure the patient’s safety and comfort is prioritised throughout their stay, and the team have been great at showing me the ropes.
I had been used to dealing with healthy people who were undergoing surgery by choice, and so it was initially a bit of a shock to assist with the care of our NHS patients. They have a variety of medical conditions, which made it very different to what I’d been used to previously, but I loved the training and the new skills that I was able to develop. I’ve been doing everything from admitting patients to removing cannulas, carrying out post-operative observations and transporting patients in full PPE. I was even carrying out Covid swabbing recently wearing a biohazard suit!
After being furloughed I realised how much I missed my day to day role, so being given the opportunity to further develop my skills on the ward was great. I’ve found these last few weeks incredibly rewarding. I’ve enjoyed caring for our NHS patients, and getting stuck in as much as I could, because I’m helping them when they’re at a very vulnerable stage in their lives.
I’m grateful that I was able to come and work on the wards at Burcot Hall. Although I’ll return to my previous role in the clinic at the beginning of August, I can’t thank the staff enough for making me feel so welcome and helping my transition onto the ward go so smoothly.
As to the future, I would love to continue developing my skills here as an HCA, but I’d also love to return to study to qualify as an Operating Department Practitioner.
At the moment though, it’s so rewarding knowing that I’m playing a role in improving someone’s quality of life. Whether they’re undergoing bariatric or cosmetic surgery, seeing a patient’s health and confidence improve thanks to the skills of the staff here is a really good feeling.