'It's been colossal': NHS staff on the frontline in the fight against Coronavirus

Four NHS workers share the impact the Coronavirus crisis has had on their mental health Credit: ITV News Central

Four members of staff, who've each played their part in fighting Coronavirus, share the impact it's had on their mental health; their gratitude for the support from the NHS; and their hopes and fears for the future.

Credit: ITV News Central
  • Staff Nurse Chevanique Thomas

Credit: ITV News Central

As a newly qualified nurse, over the last few weeks I have doubted myself and my own abilities.

There have been times when I've cried, due to losing so many patients in one day.

There have been times when I felt scared, I felt alone, and I've felt I wasn't able to cope.

Staff Nurse Chevanique Thomas

But because of the support of my team workers and the NHS I've managed my workload and feel more confident in my own abilities.

There were patients who I've cared for that have no family. We've tried our hardest to care for these patients, and held their hands.

It's been difficult going home to my own family, and not being able to hug them straight away, or tell them about my day, for fear they won't really understand.

We've all come together as a team to make it work.

My aim is to remain positive, and have hope. I know as a nation, we can beat this.

  • Executive Chief Nurse, Lisa Stalley-Green

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You have very euphoric days. I'm intensely proud of all our colleagues. I'm honoured to stand in front of our hospitals and talk about the work that's been done.

And then other days you are touched by sadness. Sadness at the amount of people we've lost. Some our own staff have been very, very poorly. We've lost a colleague at one of our sites. It's deeply sad - we are human.

I'll be a different person after this. There is something of this that will probably be in me for the rest of my career and my life.

We are human.

Executive Chief Nurse, Lisa Stalley-Green

As Chief Nurse I have responsibilities for infection prevention control, and ensuring staff are well prepared and supported to be able to care for patients. I ensure we maintain contact with patients, given we can't have visitors on site, and that we pay particular attention to vulnerable patients - those with dementia and learning disabilities.

The pandemic has been colossal - we're responding to huge numbers of patients with specific needs.

It was challenging when we saw images from across the world of health care staff struggling. We did lots of psychological preparation with teams, and there's always mental health support in place - it's the nature of the job in the health service.

But we recognised we'd need specific help because a pandemic is different.

We've expected staff to use different skills, and work in different teams, at short notice.

They've had anticipation anxiety; euphoria at successful treatment of large numbers of people; but they've also been troubled at feeling they haven't been able to give the care they wanted, although they probably have.

We're getting less of the feedback we get on a day to day basis from patients and relatives about positive care that we've given - that normally keep us going.

We've made sure there's been space for people to be mindful. We know people can have trouble sleeping, so we have a helpline 24/7.

And we've done little things. With increased handwashing, people have had dry hands - so we've had nicer skin care products than normal.

  • Director of Workforce, Cathi Shovlin

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I oversee HR and Occupational Health services.

I've been juggling increased demand with increased absence, to make sure we have all the right people in place.

Before the pandemic, we'd already done training with Mind on managing mental health in the workplace. So we were well equipped to recognise the signs of a lowering of mental health and to know how to support people.

We've also got an in-house counsellor and psychiatrist.

There was one staff member who wanted to come to work, but he also felt incredibly anxious about his own health conditions and his relatives. There was a lot of inner turmoil caused by weighing up wanting to be on the frontline, and also wanting to protect his family.

We've put in place support from psychologists, we've put in peer support, we've created well-being hubs - safe spaces for staff to go, where they can decompress, and be comforted and nourished.

Staff have also created their own 'wobble rooms' where they can just be with their feelings, and where people have posted positive mantras, to help them reconnect with their purpose.

We've also got rooms were no-one is allowed to talk about Covid.

I felt a bit discombobulated last week. When I thought about it, I realised we were coming out of a time of very focussed activity, so I gave myself space to pause, to think, to reflect - which I'd not done.

If I don't look after myself, I can't look after the 22,000 staff that we have either.

  • Consultant Clinical Psychologist, Robin Paijmans

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NHS staff are used to dealing with people in crisis, but this is unusual because everyone is affected, we're all in it.

NHS staff are facing challenges on both a personal and professional level, and trying to manage the pressures of both.

They're working in new ways, wearing PPE, with the challenges around trying to communicate using PPE. Staff are standing in on behalf of a family, they're dealing with exhaustion and fatigue, and not knowing when it will end.

At the same time, they have their own vulnerabilities. They're worried about their families, we have some staff living away from families, so they're cut off from their normal coping strategies.

People are saying they're having strange feelings they're not used to - feeling angry, frustrated, or self doubt. It's very normal - in unusual circumstances we have unusual feelings. In psychological First Aid we help people make sense of their feelings.

We're looking to the future - what happens after the crisis, and how we deal with that - is at least as important as what happens during the crisis.

We're already looking out for early signs of distress, so that we can address them early on.

If you catch things early, you can contain and manage them very well.