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International Women's Day: The gift of inspiration

Monday 8 March 2021

Women working across Leicester’s Hospitals are inspiring the next generation, daily. 

Last week, we caught a glimpse of some beautifully wrapped hampers being gifted to one of our respiratory teams, from an 11-year old girl called Olivia. Olivia, like people across Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland has been inspired by the work of this team, and set about making sure that they knew how valued they were.

Our respiratory teams have had to respond to the pandemic with energy, innovation but also with compassion to one another. And we’re choosing today, International Women’s Day to highlight the fantastic job that this team have done over the last year.

Early in the pandemic Clare Rossall, a respiratory physiotherapist, observed that many COVID-19 patients on wards outside ITU needed respiratory support, and so she brought together a specialist respiratory team known as ARRT who have been focused on caring for this group of patients through the pandemic. 

She said: “Obviously, none of us had ever managed COVID-19 patients before but one thing was clear and that was we needed to act fast. I spoke to Respiratory Physiologists who run the long-term ventilation service to see how they could transfer their skills. We worked closely with medical physics to identify as many medical devices as possible that we could use to offer Non-Invasive Ventilation (NIV) and Continuous Positive Airway Pressure Therapy (CPAP).”

The ARRT team were asked to self-rota in order to manage the hours of care required. With many of the team having caring commitments they routinely swap shifts and make sure to have open conversations about what is possible. In this, they have created a team culture where they have each other’s backs, professionally and personally.

“As a parent of young children I realised that people would have additional challenges outside of work especially during the lockdown, whilst at the same time professionally, we needed to stay on top of the changing Covid landscape for the benefit of our patients. To make it manageable, we didn’t ask anyone to do any particular hours and stuck to people’s normal contracted hours.”

This didn’t hold the team back. Mass training and infection prevention was put in place, centralised respiratory stock and equipment was gathered and the team set about their work.

Soon, seeing the difference that Clare’s vision was having, other respiratory colleagues got on board and offered their support and volunteered their skills and time. From senior allied health professionals such as physiotherapists and physiologists, advanced clinical practitioners to specialist nurses and with the help and support of clinical leadership from respiratory consultants, registrars, junior doctors, researchers, speciality nurses, Therapy staff and behind the scenes heroes like medical physics, the team have gone from strength to strength.

“We are a diverse, knowledgeable multi-disciplinary team, who were prepared to manage whatever challenges came our way, but I think it is our openness that has been the key to our success.”

“When we feel stressed, exhausted, elevated or saddened we say so. It isn’t uncommon to see colleagues rally round each other subtly to pick each other up and help each other carry on as parents, carers and employees.”

Eleven year-old Olivia Barry has been so in awe of the efforts of the respiratory support team on Ward 35, Glenfield that she made hampers with handmade gifts including Marks and Spencer’s vouchers that she bought with her own pocket money for the team.

“The entire team are exceptional and our ability to see each other as people has helped us to thrive, and that has meant that we can be the best healthcare professionals that we can be. That is what our patients need. ... I can see exactly why Olivia has been inspired, this team inspire me. And I know that kind gestures like Olivia’s inspire all of us.”

For more information, please contact communications@uhl-tr.nhs.uk