‘Unprecedented times’ continue as we near the end of January 2021. Over the past year the word ‘zoom’, as a noun and a verb, has taken on a different meaning as we try, with varying degrees of success, to link with one another across the counties. Our AGM took place via ‘zoom’ as do our ‘cocktail moments’ and other get-togethers. Undoubtedly, we all look forward to the resumption of usual activity. Across the branch members continue to work and support all sectors, public and private, contributing to national campaigns dealing with the ongoing pandemic. As with the remainder of the UK, some members work in education sectors and in and alongside the NHS; hospital and community, whilst several members graciously give their time to people who welcome the support. With the vaccination programme now in place the number of members receiving their first vaccination is rising daily whilst some, who have volunteered as ‘vaccinators, are tackling the paperwork mountain and training requirements for the role. Christina Mabin, whilst volunteering for a vaccinator role is also part of ongoing vaccine trials:
“with the urgent need to develop a vaccine I signed up for clinical trials last year on the Gov.UK website. Following initial assessment and a telephone call with a researcher I was accepted, and the first appointment was within days. This resulted in me having my first injection following screening. As a blind study, I am not aware of if I received the vaccine or a placebo. Three weeks later and after more screening, I had my second injection and at 35 days another assessment. I will be monitored on a regular basis for at least a year. ‘Novavax’ is planning to publish data early this year and has stated “In our view, the UK study provides an opportunity to assess [the Novavax vaccine] against the original strain and the UK variant, which may result in a data-driven differentiated profile. We believe the study has a high [probability of success] as it will be a composite efficacy endpoint against the two strains.” There has been an overwhelming response to volunteering for vaccine trials - in Exeter, there were about 9,000 volunteers for about 500 participants. The dilemma for all of us taking part in vaccine trials is what we do when offered a vaccine by the Government - we can request to be unblinded and have a vaccine if we have received the placebo or we can simply continue with the trial without any other vaccines. At the moment I have decided to continue.”
On the education front, Sara Hawkins, Plymouth University lecturer, has become ‘zooming marvellous’ courtesy of the pandemic:
“Lecturers are being proactive and incorporating a range of new skills to deliver content via the digital learning environment. I am not sure that the students fully comprehend the challenges and significant changes that staff are experiencing due to the pandemic. The ease of standing in a classroom face to face can draw upon the experience and be delivered with a simple plan, the digital classrooms require a structured plan with fail-safes integrated to ensure efficient delivery, this addition to the workload places a strain upon staff which may have a longer-term effect on stress levels. Plymouth University students have been fortunate that they continue to be provided with face-to-face clinical skills sessions, and the NHS and local providers are taking students on placement.”
Within the NHS Vanessa Crossey and her team have adapted to changing priorities in Primary Care:
“Since we stood down the PPE and incident response work at the end of July my team and I returned to working back in our usual roles within the CCG. However, much of our work continued to focus on Covid as you can probably appreciate this pandemic has had a huge impact on all areas of the health service. More recently, we are now also supporting the Practice nurses (who are delivering the Covid vaccines in the main) out in care homes and in their clinics. We have all been trained up in vaccine delivery, anaphylaxis and BLS and have had to get up to speed very quickly (bearing in mind a lot of my nurses don’t deliver patient care regularly in their current roles). We will all be redeployed in the next few weeks to vaccinate so we can try and meet the government targets of vaccinating 15 million people by the middle of February. I remain immensely proud of the team I work with, who continue to keep adapting and turning their hands to whatever is asked of them, I think nurses are particularly good at this! The Covid vaccine roll-out is a great example of this, led in the most part by nurses and what a great job they are doing across the UK”.
In the midst of the pandemic creativity within the branch continues. Whilst we are unable to sample and purchase members’ cakes, produce and preserves at events, we can enjoy the artistry of Dorothy Flint, whom I think we should co-opt as our ‘artist in residence’.
Dorothy graciously allowed one of her drawings to be used for our branch Christmas card; a self-portrait as a QARANC captain. Poignant for the ‘Year of the Nurse and Midwife’.
Looking forward we hope to include news of planned events and opportunities for branch members to meet up again.