Staff at NHS Dorset Clinical Commissioning Group have been supporting their local partner organisations and patients during the COVID-19 pandemic, with some people swapping their day jobs for roles on the front line.

The CCG employs many clinical staff who have voluntarily returned to support care in a variety of settings, such as hospital wards, community nursing and residential care homes.

Along with physical deployment through the three acute hospitals in Dorchester, Poole and Bournemouth, members of the CCG also took the lead in other areas, including supporting local care homes and other organisations with guidance on infection control and education, and assisting in the coordination of PPE.

Karen Payne works within the Primary Care Team at NHS Dorset CCG, but was recently redeployed to Dorset County Hospital.

“As talk of redeployment started early in April, I have to admit I was excited and scared in equal measure. Once I got the call to say I was going to be redeployed to Dorset County Hospital I think excitement kicked in more than panic, and within 48 hours I had a call from the team to discuss where I was best placed to go; it was decided that initially, working on Virtual Fracture Clinics would make the best use of my skills.

“I completed the work on this project much quicker than was expected, so after completing my clinical updates I was able to return to hands-on nursing again. Initially I returned to the Emergency Department (ED) – my happy place having worked there for six years previously.

“The department had been transformed into a COVID majors and a non-COVID majors, with minors being moved out of the department altogether. It was incredible to see how the department had been replicated so that the old minor treatment bay was now a fully functioning resuscitation bay for non-COVID patients. Despite the changes, within hours it felt like I had never been away. I quickly saw that technology may have come on tremendously, but ED nursing really hadn’t changed that much.

“On my first day I had some lovely experiences nursing people, including a 96-year-old lady who had fallen putting the washing out. She had been driving up until the week before and genuinely only looked about 70.

“I then moved on to Ilchester Ward (which is the Medical Assessment Unit) for a few weeks. This felt very familiar too as my previous ward experience was on a medical ward. This is usually a really busy ward where patients arrive from their GP or ED to be assessed before deciding on their onward medical plan. It was strange to nurse in these times, not just because I have been away for so long or because of the reduced patient numbers but because of having to work in PPE, the complexity of which I had very much underestimated.

“What I realised most from this time is that I am very proud to be a nurse. I love nursing, and the art of nursing never leaves you. Oh, and I can still make a bed with a mean hospital corner, but most people don’t use them anymore!

“I am truly grateful for the opportunity to return to frontline nursing for a short time.”