Kat Hargraves is an NHS Critical Care nurse and has kindly taken part in this Q&A where we have asked about what it's like to being a nurse during the COVID-19 pandemic. She also has been posting some very insightful articles on her blog which we urge to you check out, follow this LINK to her profile.
- Tell us a bit about yourself and your career, what inspired you to become a nurse, and is this still true now?
I became a nurse a bit by accident - my first job was as a cleaner in a residential home, then when I turned 16 I started working as a carer there. Then when A-levels rolled around and I was applying to Uni nursing seemed like a natural progression. I just got lucky really, and fell into doing something I love!
When I qualified I first worked in Gastroenterology and Hepatology (Liver and Guts) as a ward nurse, which gives you a strong stomach and a slightly disturbing interest in people’s toilet habits! Then I moved to the trust I still work for now, first on the medical admissions ward and then in Intensive Care. Medical admissions is the ward you first go to after A+E and is mad. Super-busy and a bit of a baptism of fire! If you can work there, you can work anywhere. Intensive Care is the domain of control-freaks and perfectionists and can be really intimidating, but is fascinating and hugely rewarding. I’m a Sister there now, and couldn’t imagine being anywhere else.
- How has the current situation affected your personal wellbeing?
I worry more about the future at the moment, the uncertainty takes a toll. It’s hard being more senior, because people look to you for answers and we don’t have them all at the moment. But I’m holding up ok. I have good friends and family to keep an eye on me.
- What are your working hours like and have you had to do much extra time during the coronavirus outbreak?
I work part-time because I have 2 children and I’m doing a Masters degree. I do two 13 hour shifts per week. I’ve picked up some extras when we were very busy, but things have settled a little for the moment.
- How do you feel when you hear the UK clapping for you?
A little conflicted, if I’m honest! It’s nice that people want to show support but this is my job. I did it before Covid, I’m doing it now and I’ll continue to do it after Covid. It also means very little if you’re clapping once a week and then socialising and risking spreading it around the rest of the time.
- Do you use your YUYU after coming home after a long shift?
Yeah I have hypermobile joints so I get back and shoulder pain at times when I’m tired and have been on my feet all day so it’s perfect to help with that!
- What does your routine outside of work hours look like, if you have one?
I have 2 young kids so at the moment it’s all about keeping them entertained! Get up, breakfast, try to do some reading and schoolwork, then chill out in the garden in the afternoon, let the kids run around. Then essay writing or some exercise in the evening some days, or just relax with my other half.
- What goes through your mind if you notice people going out or otherwise not respecting the social distancing guidelines?
I get this horrible feeling in the pit of my stomach. I can’t really explain the angry/disappointed/despairing combo. I see people dying and some of those would have been preventable. Only one visitor is allowed for a dying patient, for a limited amount of time. Relatives are respecting these rules even though it breaks their hearts to do it. And yet some people can’t even manage to follow basic instructions about keeping their distance and avoiding going out. The selfishness is breath-taking. Words just don’t cover it.
- Have you had to take any time off during COVID-19?
I had to self-isolate for a week because I had symptoms, but luckily (or unluckily, I’m not sure which!) it was on my weeks leave so I didn’t miss any shifts!
- Do you feel a light at the end of the tunnel?
I think it’s a long way off yet. This winter is going to be interesting for the NHS. Staff will already be tired, winter pressures are always high and now we’ll face the added pressure of Covid.
- What is the first thing you are going to do after the lockdown is lifted?
I’m going to go to the pub!