Harriet has worked at an Ebola Treatment Centre in Sierra Leone, treated patients for diphtheria at the world’s largest refugee camp (Cox’s Bazar in Bangladesh), worked as an IPC (Infection, Prevention and Control) health advisor in Cambodia, and an IPC nurse in Lebanon following the rise in COVID-19 cases after the devastating blast at Beirut Port.
Listen to Harriet speak on BBC Radio Three Counties, or read more about her experiences below.
Having worked in Sierra Leone, I’d received multiple trainings in how to use PPE, so I never felt anxious about treating a COVID-19 patient. I was able to support my colleagues who hadn’t worked with such an infectious disease before. I knew that if we could keep ourselves safe, we could keep our patients safe. Staff felt they could come to me because of my experience.
Nursing is about adaptability. You have to nurse every patient in a different way. Working in different cultures, with different languages, teaches you how to adapt to deliver the best care you can for that patient.
I think with COVID-19 and people not being able to see their relatives, my experience really helped me to make sure I was keeping patients calm and informed about what was going on. Little things like showing them my face on the other side of the glass when I could – so they knew I was a person underneath all that PPE.
Recently we’ve had a number of people come to the hospital with suspected Ebola. When people come in, I know what signs to look for and make sure the patients are correctly managed. I can feedback to the doctors and teach the staff what to do, what not to do – and make sure the clinical management is appropriate.
There was a patient who came into our department after I’d got back from Bangladesh with a letter from the doctor to say he had suspected diphtheria. I was able to say: ‘Don’t worry. I’ve done this already.’ And I knew what medication to give.
The different deployments have made me look at things in a different way. In the Emergency Department, it’s here and now, so going on deployment forces you to step back and think about how we can improve things for the longer term.
On deployment, everyone just pulls together changing patients, rolling patients. There’s no hierarchy. It opened my eyes about how to work as a team. It’s given me news skills and different ways of working.
“I never felt anxious about treating a COVID patient”