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Jacqueline Laughlin, Critical Care Nurse

Jacqueline Laughlin, Critical Care Nurse

Jacqueline Laughlin, Critical Care Nurse

In the early days of the pandemic in 2020 we spoke to critical care nurse Jacqueline Laughlin who was helping to care for seriously ill Covid-19 patients. One year on, we caught up with her again to see how the last 12 months has been.

In normal times general critical care capacity is 32, during the height of the first wave, up to 47 patients were receiving intensive care at the same time and in January this year the unit was treating 65 Covid-19 patients.

Alongside a team of more than 300 staff in the Critical Care Unit, including staff redeployed from other hospital departments, volunteers from Stoke-on-Trent City Council and military personnel Jacqueline has worked through the greatest career challenges of her life.

Jacqueline said: “It’s certainly been an interesting year. When it started we had not seen anything like it and had no idea it would go on for as long as it has. We were expecting it to be like a flu pandemic and for it all to be over in the summer last year but then it came back and it was horrific.

“We had to let our very high standards of care go just a little bit as we treated more than twice as many patients as normal. It’s been gruelling and relentless and we are all tired and exhausted.”

She added: “The patients have been very sick and they don’t behave as we would expect them to behave. There has been a really heavy effect emotionally on us as nurses. We don’t expect to be looking after so many people dying and for much of the year it has felt like we are running on the spot. I have a lot of experience and resilience to draw from but I feel for some of our newly qualified nurses who have only known Covid and had to support patients and families to say goodbye before being placed on ventilators two or three times a week. It has been just awful.”

However, despite the hard days, Jacqueline said humour and generosity of the community had got her through and was starting to feel more hopeful for the future.

“We take humour when we can and try and stop ourselves from being affected, particularly from death. The generosity of people delivering parcels of food and gifts has been overwhelming as well the letters and cards we have received from schools which have provided a real boost and helped us keep going,” Jacqueline said.

 “As a team we are immensely strong but we are stronger than we ever imagined. It has been probably the hardest time in our careers but we are amazing and I am so proud of what we have done and proud of myself for keeping going.

“I am feeling a lot more hopeful; we are starting to see a change and our patients are leaving critical care and going to the ward. We now have the vaccine and as long as everyone is sensible over the summer I don’t think we will see the extraordinary numbers of patients in critical care again.”

Outside of work Jacqueline is also looking forward to lockdown lifting and some normaility resuming.

She said: “Although I have seen and experienced things I never expected to in my lifetime, I am just like everyone else and want to get back to going out and seeing people who aren’t my immediate family and enjoy a drink in the pub.”