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Rebecca Aitken, Senior Sister Ward 117

Rebecca Aitken, Senior Sister Ward 117

Rebecca Aitken, Senior Sister Ward 117

Ward 117 at the Royal Stoke University Hospital cared for first Covid patient at the beginning of the pandemic 2020 and has led the way on Covid care and procedures, setting up a drive-through testing service and quickly tripling their usual patient admission numbers. They also took on a range of new clinical skills, including enhanced palliative care, mask fit-test training and becoming Covid vaccinators.

Looking back on the last 12 months Rebecca Aitken, Senior Sister for the infectious diseases ward said:

“We first began training for Covid at the end of January last year. Understandably the team were anxious but we worked together to gain new skills and find ways of working whilst supporting each other, patients and relatives. The team rapidly took on all outpatient testing for the Staffordshire area, providing a drive-up testing service and liaising with multiple external agencies. At this time we also rolled out training and assisted with mask fit-testing across the hospital. We took direct admissions from NHS 111 and split the ward into two separate halves to accommodate patients with general infectious diseases and Covid.”

As the numbers began to climb nationally and the hospital’s inpatient population grew, the ward changed completely from being an infectious diseases unit to becoming a Covid assessment ward. The team continued like this until June 2020, when the numbers of Covid patients began to drop. After a short respite of approximately six weeks, patient numbers began to rise again and the team  have continued caring for Covid patients ever since.

Rebecca said: “The team have learned so many new skills during this time and they have ensured families receive regular, comprehensive updates whilst they are unable to visit. They have supported both patients and relatives, even facilitating visits from pets at the end of someone’s life.

“This last year has been very challenging, it’s been mentally and physically exhausting for everyone. However, knowing we are able to make a difference to patients, appreciating that this is a very different, unique and challenging time and that we have all been able to contribute to the efforts of the NHS; being part of trials to improve treatment and knowledge of Covid and the support of the friends and colleagues that we work with and supporting them in return has kept us all going.”

She added: “We are so extremely proud of our team. Their dedication, compassion, professionalism, flexibility and resilience they have shown has been nothing short of amazing. Everyone has worked harder than ever, from domestics and ward assistants to consultants. They have taken on extra hours and responsibilities to support patients, their colleagues and the trust. We couldn’t have asked any more from them, we think they are worth their weight in gold.”

Looking ahead to what is next for the ward Rebecca said: “We have learned so much during the last 12 months but one of the biggest things is how resilient and adaptable we can be as a team which will hopefully take us forward for whatever challenges may face us next.”