Occupational health on the coronavirus frontline – ‘I have been swabbing symptomatic NHS staff’

Kate Kyne. "Would I do it all again if we do experience a second wave? In a heartbeat."

Occupational health nurses up and down the country heeded the call to come to the aid of the hard-pressed NHS during the coronavirus crisis, and many are continuing to go above and beyond. Throughout August, we are telling their stories, starting with OH and wellbeing manager Kate Kyne.

I am the UK and Ireland occupational health and wellbeing manager for a company called Wavin, which produces plastic and clay pipes for clean water, sanitation and drainage., mainly for the construction industry. As such, I provide and manage the full remit of OH services across all sites across the two countries (I have Irish registration, so able to work on our site in Dublin too).

With the building industry coming to an almost complete stop during lockdown, our factories had to furlough many of our production and distribution staff. The OH team was furloughed, apart from myself as we did still have some employees on all sites, mainly maintenance and the engineers.

While I was still working full time, the business made it clear it would help to support anyone who wished to go and work alongside others such as the NHS.

Up until 2014, I had worked as OH manager in my local hospital (Swindon) for a number of years. So, knowing some of the team, I approached them to see how I might be able to help.

Next thing I know, I am there in my scrubs doing the staff swabbing for all those who were symptomatic! I have to say, wearing full PPE and spending days standing outside in the heat was not my idea of fun, but it still felt a very worthwhile thing to be doing.

Wearing full PPE and spending days standing outside in the heat was not my idea of fun, but it still felt a very worthwhile thing to be doing

My manager at Wavin was really supportive. My intention was to go to the hospital three to four days a week but, as our Wavin employees at the factories have started to return and we are now screening them all to check they’re OK about a return after such a period of time away from the workplace, my time has been split five days a week doing the day job and going up to the hospital to swab at weekends.

For me, it has been an eye-opener. I left the NHS six years ago but going back it was just like I had never left! They truly are amazing; the staff I swabbed all just wanted to get back to work, to care for their patients. Some were really ill, with high temperatures and coughs and so on, but just wanted to get a negative result so that they could get back on the front line.

More recently, when seeing patients to do their pre-op swabs, they too are so very grateful for all that the NHS are doing, I don’t think I have heard the words “thank you” as much as I have in the last 10-12 weeks.

As I am now classed as someone who is in the category of high risk of exposure, I was able to have my antibody bloods taken. The results came back as a negative, which to me was reassuring, as it shows that wearing full PPE really does provide protection against Covid19

Was it hard? Yes. Did I cry? Yes, lots! Did I feel part of a team? Absolutely , did we have a laugh when things were quite? Of course we did! Am I glad we are beginning to see light at the end of the tunnel? Oh yes. But would I do it all again if we do experience a second wave? In a heartbeat. I think once a nurse, always a nurse!

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