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Nurses from Tayside, Fife and Perthshire reveal how Covid-19 brought a year of change, pride and tears

International Nurses Day
International Nurses Day

As part of our focus on nurses from Fife and Tayside for International Nurses Day, we talked to nurses about their career highs and lows.

There are 62,346 NHS nurses working in Scotland. There are 5,244 working for NHS Tayside.

We spoke to three nurses from across the area about how Covid-19 has changed their profession.

Mary Ballantyne.

Mary Ballantyne returned to nursing due to the Covid-19 pandemic after a break from the career. She is currently a Covid-19 Team Lead as part of the Angus Immunisation Team.

“At the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, I was drawn back to the NHS. I wanted and needed to help.

“I joined the emergency register as soon as it opened, and was given a three month placement with Brechin Health Centre. It was brilliant to be back and helping patients once again.

“In the beginning of the pandemic, the biggest challenge was the numbers. How many people were suffering from Covid-19, how many have died. I have no words to elaborate how these numbers have affected me.

“Nurse-led services and the role of the nurse continue to develop as we discover so much more of who we are and what we can bring to the table.

“I feel very proud of my nursing colleagues as they show us who they are and what they can do.

“Coming back has been the best decision I’ve ever made. I’m now back to stay.”

Karen Laing.

Karen Laing works as a Community Learning Disability Nurse at Wedderburn House in Dundee.

“The biggest challenge of my career has been seeing clients who have really flourished, attending groups and enjoying life and that being put on hold due to Covid.

“Some people have become socially isolated and anxious about life returning to how it was.

“For our more profoundly disabled patients, their lives have been turned upside down and it has been difficult to support them to fully understand why life has changed so much.

“As a learning disability nurse our speciality is communication and observing body language to really asses how someone is feeling and this was lost with telephone consultations.

“Having to wear full PPE was also a challenge for some of our clients as they did not recognise us.

“Our group work has also been put on hold and we are now doing one-to-one anxiety support which takes away the opportunity for people to meet their peers.

“The main change I have seen in learning disability nursing is the move from hospital based care to community care.

“People with a learning disability are now more accepted as valued members of the community and acute care in particular has become more accessible for them.

“Person-centred care is now at the forefront, but learning disability nurses have been applying this concept naturally for many years so it is inspirational to see it being recognised as good practice.”

Paula Moor.

Paula Moor has worked in the profession for 47 years and has seen it evolve in that time. She currently works in Perthshire as a District Nursing Charge Nurse.

“My very first job was as a Nursing Auxiliary in Little Cairnie Hospital in Arbroath during the summer of 1974 before I began my nurse training.

“I remember being in the staff dining room in the middle of my lunch when the Matron walked in and everyone had to stand up until she was seated!

“It has been challenging trying to keep knowledge up-to-date to ensure patients and staff felt supported and safe.

“All of us in the South Perthshire locality have found the vaccination programme hard work but satisfying.

“We pride ourselves on the care we provide for our patients, especially those who are receiving end of life care at home. This has been exceptionally challenging during the pandemic.

“On top of caring for the patient, we have also had to support relatives who could not be as close to their loved ones as they would normally be, but we have been there for them every step of the way.

“Nothing makes me more proud than when I get notes and letters from patients and their relatives saying how grateful they are for our team of dedicated nurses.

“A very recent quote from a card said ‘we will never, ever forget your wonderful care. So professional, so expert, yet so kind and so personal, we owe you a huge debt.’ It brought tears to my eyes.”

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