Occupational health on the coronavirus frontline – ‘I have been supporting my local NHS OH team’

Dawn Grout. "I do feel I did my bit to help out and made a contribution."

During August, we are telling the stories of occupational health nurses who have come to the aid of the hard-pressed NHS during the coronavirus crisis. This week we hear from University of Reading OH manager Dawn Grout.

I am an occupational health manager at Reading University and also a Queen’s Nurse. When lockdown occurred I felt I wanted to help in the NHS and so I contacted my local NHS trust to volunteer.

By this time I was carrying out my usual role at home, so undertaking a full OH remit and also being a busy member of one of the university’s major incident sub groups, all via telephone or video conferencing.

I approached my manager to say I was hoping to volunteer. Whilst they were supportive, they were concerned that if I became ill I wouldn’t be able to fulfil my role; they were supportive
as long as I did some of the volunteering in my own time

I was contacted by my NHS trust and, whilst the initial discussion was to get me on to a ward, it then switched to me working in the OH unit. All the way along I stressed that I was doing this voluntarily and I didn’t want to be paid, and hence I was given an honorary contract.

The way it worked was I split my day between my university day job where I aimed to work five hours before being driven the short distance to start work at the OH unit. I met the team, got used to Cohort [software] again and soon was given a number of Covid-19 telephone messages to work through.

Although I hadn’t worked in the NHS for a while I found using my listening skills and my ability to be compassionate was all that was needed. Every call I carried out was unique, with everyone having their own concerns about their own or their family’s health and wellbeing.

Despite being armed with FAQs, it was evident each call needed time and attention to make sure each NHS worker got the correct advice. Supporting the team was also important as, whilst my usual OH service was quieter than usual, these guys had been dealing with an increase in calls for weeks

I recognised there was a mental health element to deal with, as often I would find myself mulling over some of the scenarios that I had been dealing with.

My shift was four hours, which seemed short but starting each day at 7am, walking home from the trust, and then having to catch up on any university emails in the evening all made for a long day. I also recognised there was a mental health element to deal with, as often I would find myself mulling over some of the scenarios that I had been dealing with.

Although this doesn’t sound outstanding, I do feel I did my bit to help out and made a contribution of my own to the NHS. The feedback I got from the NHS team was that they found my contribution was valuable, and just having another experienced person around was helpful, which was great.

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