Doctor and nurse to switch on Durham Cathedral's Christmas tree lights

Durham Cathedral
Durham Cathedral Credit: Chapter of Durham Cathedral

A doctor and a nurse from University Hospital of North Durham will switch on Durham Cathedral's Christmas tree lights.

Tara Watkiss and Dawn Kempson, A & E Doctor and Junior Sister, were given the honour in recognition of their work on the frontline during the Coronavirus pandemic. They will light the tree on behalf of their NHS colleagues across the country at the special online service on December 13th at 3.30pm. Members of the public cannot attend in person but can watch a live stream on Facebook.  

Dawn works as a Clinical Lead Nurse and Junior Sister on Ward 3 at UHND; a complex frailty unit, specialising in treating older adults. Dawn’s 20 years of nursing experience was put into practice when she was redeployed to an acute coronavirus ward, helping staff who were trained in plastic surgery and orthopaedics to rapidly develop their respiratory knowledge and develop the expertise needed to meet the specific needs of Covid patients.

Durham Cathedral Credit: Chapter of Durham Cathedral

Dawn said: “Nursing the people affected by the first wave of coronavirus is something that will stay with me always. We quickly worked out that this was unlike any condition we had ever come across, with each person needing a huge amount of nursing, medical, rehabilitative and spiritual care. 

 “As we nurse the second wave of this awful disease, please know that we are doing our best.  We are down, but we are not out and I am delighted to have been asked to help showcase and reflect on the work we’ve done, at this wonderful time of year at the cathedral service.” 

Tara was one of the many healthcare workers who caught Covid herself while treating sick patients. She continues to care for patients during the winter months, working in the Cardiology unit at UNHD. She said: “Covid has been an awful ordeal for the whole world, lots of families have lost loved ones, but a quote that really rings true to me is that 'the world came together as people stayed apart’.  I have seen more of a sense of unity and community than ever before and it is a privilege to be invited to light the cathedral tree to signal hope for new beginnings.”