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Surgical ward sister ‘proud’ of team's response to Manchester attack

A senior surgical ward sister has spoken of the emotional night shift she spent caring for those injured in the Manchester Arena attack.
Joe O'Brien

A senior surgical ward sister has spoken of the emotional night shift she spent caring for those injured in the Manchester Arena attack.

A total of 22 people died and 116 were injured in the bombing at an Ariana Grande concert on Monday night.

A number of casualties were taken to Stepping Hill Hospital in Stockport, where Joe OBrien came on duty at 1.30am.

She told Nursing Standard: By that point I knew what had happened and my first job was to make sure I had enough nurses in to care for the victims.

I had to call in staff who were off duty, but tried to avoid calling those who I knew had young children as I did not want to alarm their whole family in the middle

A senior surgical ward sister has spoken of the emotional night shift she spent caring for those injured in the Manchester Arena attack.


Stepping Hill Hospital senior surgical ward sister Joe O'Brien helped care for the injured.

A total of 22 people died and 116 were injured in the bombing at an Ariana Grande concert on Monday night.

A number of casualties were taken to Stepping Hill Hospital in Stockport, where Joe O’Brien came on duty at 1.30am.

She told Nursing Standard: ‘By that point I knew what had happened and my first job was to make sure I had enough nurses in to care for the victims.

‘I had to call in staff who were off duty, but tried to avoid calling those who I knew had young children as I did not want to alarm their whole family in the middle of the night.’

‘I’ve been in operating theatres since 1988 and I can honestly say this was the most upsetting thing I’ve ever been involved in.’ she added.

Courage

Ms O'Brien said of one patient: ‘She had awful injuries, including broken bones, but even before she went for her operation she was holding my hand, smiling and saying “thank you” over and over.

‘She was so courageous; she reminded me why I got into nursing and why I will carry on nursing.’

Her voice cracked as she added: ‘I say this because I know that, if the tables were turned, she would be there for me like I was there for her.’

Ms O'Brien added that she had recently undergone major incident training.

‘In theory, you know what to do, but you never expect to have to put it into practice,’ she said.

‘I and two colleagues had taken part in live training exercise called Operation Socrates only a few weeks ago.

‘It certainly helped, as everything was fresh in our minds.’

Exemplary

Ms O'Brien said she was proud of her ‘exemplary’ team, adding that she could not think of a single thing they could have done better.

‘We had porters running back and forth to the blood bank, senior managers giving support and advice, and the communication and leadership was excellent.’

Ms O'Brien's shift finished at 9.30am, after which she said she went home and ‘had a good cry while cuddling my black Labrador, Shadow’.

Recalling her next shift, she said: ‘We held a big meeting to see how many staff we had.

‘We didn’t know if more patients would be arriving from the bombing, so we had to regroup and be ready to do it all over again.

‘Not only that, but we had scheduled operations for other patients, who had got themselves ready and needed our full support as well.

‘So although we were all a bit subdued, we had to keep calm and carry on as normal.

‘That is what the NHS is all about.’


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