Nursing studies

Team Nightingale: why I’ll never forget what I learned nursing in a COVID field hospital

Reflections on working in a Nightingale hospital early in the pandemic and in the second wave

Third-year nursing student Nathan Harrison has seen what supportive multidisciplinary teams can achieve in demanding clinical environments

During the COVID-19 pandemic, I have been working as a clinical support worker at the NHS Nightingale Hospital North West in Manchester.

In the first wave, the hospital provided care and treatment for patients with COVID-19 across the region. Now, in the second wave, we are caring for non-COVID patients who require additional care and rehabilitation after being transferred to us from the regions acute hospitals.

When I saw that clinical staff were being recruited for the Nightingale, I applied as I wanted to support the NHS response to the pandemic. I had worked as a healthcare assistant in the acute setting

Third-year nursing student Nathan Harrison has seen what supportive multidisciplinary teams can achieve in demanding clinical environments

Nathan Harrison on duty at the Nightingale hospital

During the COVID-19 pandemic, I have been working as a clinical support worker at the NHS Nightingale Hospital North West in Manchester.

In the first wave, the hospital provided care and treatment for patients with COVID-19 across the region. Now, in the second wave, we are caring for non-COVID patients who require additional care and rehabilitation after being transferred to us from the region’s acute hospitals.

When I saw that clinical staff were being recruited for the Nightingale, I applied as I wanted to support the NHS response to the pandemic. I had worked as a healthcare assistant in the acute setting for three years, so felt I had the necessary experience to work in a field hospital.

I felt daunted, but developing my skills and being in a supportive team gave me reassurance

At the start of the pandemic, we didn’t know how it would progress or what the role of the Nightingale would be in caring for patients with COVID-19, and I did have some worries before starting work at the hospital in April.

But the clinical skills day I attended at the University of Salford as part of the induction provided some reassurance; it gave me the opportunity to develop my skill set before going into the environment, which increased my confidence.

‘The quality of care is outstanding, due to strong leadership and everyone working towards a common purpose’

I will never forget the first day I stepped into the ward areas and saw the rows of beds lined up – it was scary to think they could soon all be occupied.

But the Nightingale team – including nurses, doctors, physiotherapists, occupational therapists, pharmacists and clinical support staff – were really supportive, which helped ease my worries.

Working at the Nightingale during the first wave of the pandemic enabled me to develop many nursing skills, such as prioritising the clinical needs of patients and communicating with families. I received training on infection prevention and control, including how to don and doff personal protective equipment.

I felt I had helped to ease the pressures on the NHS

Importantly, I felt I had made a real difference during the pandemic by helping to reduce pressure on the NHS. The Nightingale was a constantly evolving environment, which enabled me to become more flexible and responsive to the changing working practices at the hospital.

In June, the Nightingale Manchester was placed on stand by as COVID-19 cases across the region began to decline. It was ready to be reactivated when needed, and I was ready when I received a call asking if I would like to return to the hospital when it re-opened in October.

In phase two of the pandemic, the hospital is providing intermediate care for non-COVID, medically stable patients who need further support or rehabilitation before they can be discharged.

This new clinical model is relieving pressure on the NHS across the region, allowing more acute bed capacity. The hospital has been adapted to include a gym and therapy assessment spaces, including a home-style bedroom, living room and kitchen.

My experience has mostly been in acute care as a support worker, so I wasn’t sure what to expect when caring for patients in a rehabilitation setting. But with the multidisciplinary team consisting of nursing and therapy staff, GPs and care of older people physicians, there is plenty of opportunity to learn from others.

NHS Nightingale Hospital North West in Manchester Picture: Alamy

Valuable insights into patient rehabilitation and intermediate care

After several weeks working at the Nightingale under the new clinical model, I now have a greater understanding of how intermediate care services are delivered. I have also been able to work alongside the different members of the team to gain an insight into their roles and how they support the rehabilitation of patients.

The quality of care delivered at the Nightingale is outstanding. This is due to strong leadership at the hospital and the spirit, passion and commitment of the whole team, with everyone working towards the common purpose of saving patients’ lives and enhancing their recovery.

I am working at the Nightingale over the Christmas period while continuing with my university studies, and will continue to work shifts there when I can when I start my next clinical placement in January.

Being a part of team Nightingale has been an amazing experience, one I will be proud of for the rest of my nursing career.


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