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Alumni on the frontline

Across the world, Nottingham alumni are joining in the fight against COVID-19, providing medical expertise and support for their communities.

We asked you to tell us how you were helping your communities during this time, and many of you got in touch with your stories. Thank you to all alumni who are contributing to efforts to beat this disease – we are proud of you all. Here are some of your experiences working on the frontline – please do keep sharing your stories by emailing our team.

Susan Manoharan (Medical Physiology and Therapeutics, 2015)

ICU Medical Technologist, Guy’s and St Thomas’ Hospital, London

“Never did I think when starting this job that I would be working on the frontline of a global pandemic. I’m a medical technologist, working within Intensive Care Units at St Thomas’ Hospital and Guy’s Hospital in London. I am a part of the frontline critical care team, focused on tackling the global crisis of COVID-19 and caring for critically ill patients. 

“As a medical technologist, my main role is to set up, calibrate, maintain and troubleshoot all the medical technology and equipment within intensive care units, including ventilators, blood gas machines, nitric oxide inhalation therapy, temperature management systems, and anesthetic conserving devices. This includes changing the breathing circuits and filters on ventilators in use by patients. Our team was involved in increasing the Trust’s ICU bed capacity by setting up new ICU wards, and arranged the order and set-up of hundreds of ventilators. 

“Working in ICU areas where patients are ‘doubled up’ in a bed space – so a space previously occupied by a single patient is now being occupied by two – is really heartbreaking and shocking. Seeing large amounts of patients bunched up together, sedated and ventilated is so upsetting to witness on a daily basis. Fortunately, I have seen patients recover after long periods of mechanical ventilation with intense, arduous sessions of rehabilitation, as patients have to re-learn to walk and talk. 

“The support for the NHS has been amazing. The Trust has organized a marquee beside the river where volunteers provide essential food and items to staff, the laundry services wash our uniforms, catering businesses deliver cages of lunches and dinners every day, rainbow posters and messages from children stuck up on the walls outside wards, and the hospital cafes provide us with half-priced coffees to help us get through the 12-hour shifts!”

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Angela Cairns (nee Whitehouse) (Nursing, 1999)

Senior Infection Prevention and Control Nurse, Newcastle upon Tyne

“After graduating, I worked on the Infectious Diseases unit at Nottingham City Hospital, then as Infection Control sister at Sherwood Forest Hospitals. After a brief spell back at QMC in Occupational Health, I moved north with my husband for his job. I met him while at University, both of us having joined the bell ringing society. 

“My current job is definitely busy and challenging at the moment, keeping up with rapidly changing advice and trying to help staff feel supported and confident in their roles. This is made easier by having a great team and everyone working together. The changes made within the NHS, each hospital, department and community service has been nothing short of phenomenal. Although there have been many challenges, we have not seen as many cases as there have been in London and for that we are thankful. The community have really helped, from Barbour making gowns to local people making uniform bags. We have had lovely treats that have helped everyone keep a positive attitude, from businesses, family, friends and neighbours. 

“This was not a scenario we practiced for at university but the training and research experience has been valuable. I wish all of my nursing cohort and all Nottingham graduates very best wishes in these challenging times.”

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Fazilah Fatimah (Master of Nursing Science, 2016)

ICU Nurse, Guy’s and St Thomas’ Hospital, London

“I graduated from the University in July 2016. Since then I relocated to London and started my nursing career at Guy’s and St Thomas’. I’ve worked in intensive care here for the past two and a half years, on the front line. 

“These past three weeks have been, both mentally and physically, the most challenging of my career to date. Roles are changing and lines are blurring to deal with the speed of this virus. We have ward nurses coming to help after basic ventilation training but it’s difficult to teach in a high acuity environment when we’re short staffed. We’re struggling to deal with the demand but we still come to work, and there is a feeling of guilt if we can’t do our very best work. 

“We have the kindest restaurants and cafes delivering food to us every day, which reminds us that people out there appreciate us and are trying to understand the strain on us. The part that I find most difficult to shake is that people are dying alone without their families around them. It only makes me want to give them as dignified a death as possible. The trust has dedicated a whole psychiatric team for us – there will definitely be a few mental scars now and after COVID-19. 

“As a team we’re trying our best to be kind to one another and show respect always. It’s difficult when you’re so fatigued. Still, we put one foot in front of the other and try to get through this together.”

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Olivia Swift (Midwifery, 2015)

Director of Lotus Maternity and qualified midwife, Nottingham

Olivia Swift, director of award-winning maternity brand Lotus Maternity, is helping during the pandemic by returning to clinical work as a midwife to support overstretched hospital services. 

“Although it has been some time since I have worked clinically, I feel more staff working on the frontline is what is needed during the current crisis. It’s an emotional and difficult time for all small business owners where many things are out of our control. Our local Nottingham factory, where we have our beautiful nursing wear range and nursery products made, has had to close. 

“Thousands of women are pregnant and giving birth during this time, so we’ve adapted our services, such as moving our postnatal support groups online. We will endeavour to continue to provide these vital services to women who often feel isolated with a newborn, especially during stay at home measures.”

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Sidhanta Borkataky (Molecular Medical Microbiology, 2014)

Expressive Arts Therapist, Bengaluru

“I’m proud that my alma mater is one of the leaders in the important research needed to help stay ahead of the coronavirus, and that it’s using its resources to support the healthcare system. 

“I’m an alumnus of the University’s School of Molecular Medical Sciences, and currently I’m a practising Expressive Arts Therapist in Bengaluru, India. As a response to the ongoing global health emergency, a collective of therapists have come together to volunteer our services to provide a helpline for those who are struggling to process emotions around COVID-19 and the uncertainty that surrounds this. The expressive arts is a non-judgemental medium with which to process emotions using breath, body, art and expressive writing. We move away from obsessive thinking which can keep us in an endless loop of anxiety, and give callers techniques to facilitate staying in the here and now.

Bengaluru is under a full lockdown, limited to purchasing and delivery of essentials. There are talks of easing a few more services to give relief to increasing demands from a huge population, but it is still being worked out. I feel we all have to be more patient with this for everyone's present and future needs. Now more than ever, we all need each other across all borders to get through this together.”

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Chloe Bracewell (Medicine, 2015)

Team GB Canoeist and qualified doctor, Nottingham
Olympic hopeful Chloe Bracewell was set to take part in Tokyo 2020 this summer as part of Team GB in the Canoe Sprint, but now has returned to her medical background by signing up to answer the 111 service. 

“I love my sport but what is most important right now is keeping people safe and well. It was important for me to join the call to arms and return to the NHS. I’ll be answering calls on the 111 service, giving advice to patients from there. 

“I’ve been focused on training and getting into the best possible ahead of our trials, but clearly COVID-19 is bigger than anything else right now and I’m glad I can do my bit to help.” 

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Mike Curnock (Health Care Studies, 2014)

Deputy Charge Nurse at Infectious Disease Unit, City Hospital, Nottingham

“Before the COVID-19 crisis unfolded, I was both a Senior Sexual Health Nurse and Infectious Diseases Nurse. However, my role in sexual health took a back step as we began to shut sexual health clinics (primarily to stop the spread of Covid hitting vulnerable patients, such as those who are HIV positive and can be immunocompromised, and to protect the wider public). I therefore transferred to the Infectious Diseases ward full time. This has been the case for many ‘clinic’ nurses; redeployed to the ‘front line’ to help look after Covid patients and fill gaps where staff are having to self-isolate.

“On the ID ward we are set up to look after patients who are COVID-19 positive or suspected COVID positive who might require oxygen therapy. Testing and monitoring these patients closely is a priority, all while wearing our personal protective equipment (PPE). The work is hot and tiring, particularly due to the PPE, but extremely rewarding and a privilege to help people. And of course, we still have patients with other diseases on the ward who need our care.

“I’ve been surprised and moved by the whole NHS effort in this pandemic. All staff from nurses to physios are giving extra time to help fight this. I’m also moved by the amount of support from the wider public, from the Clap for Carers every Thursday to private companies with gestures of support, from free pizza to hand cream!”   


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