Former Labour MP Karen Lee said Lincoln County Hospital has been busier in the second wave of coronavirus, and much more pressured, but has praised her colleagues for helping her through the challenges.
Karen returned to nursing after Conservative Karl McCartney snatched the Lincoln MP seat back from her in December 2019 with a landslide. She now sees herself working as a nurse for the long-term.
She also admitted in the interview with The Lincolnite that she plans to put her name forward for the next election and would love to go back to Westminster in the future, but she remains fully committed to her nursing career.
United Lincolnshire Hospitals NHS Trust (ULHT) saw 156 coronavirus cases come through over the last seven days. 97 people were discharged and 42 died.
On Thursday Andrew Morgan, Chief Executive at ULHT, told BBC Radio Lincolnshire that as of Wednesday, December 2 there were 249 COVID-positive inpatients – 131 in Lincoln and 118 at Pilgrim Hospital in Boston.
He added that ULHT is one of fifty hub trusts “expecting delivery of the (new coronavirus) vaccine” and that they are “ready to do what is required of us”.
Reflecting on her return to nursing so far, Karen said: “It’s busier in the second wave without a doubt and much more pressured with a lot more patients, and everything is much faster paced now, but you just roll your sleeves up and get on with it.
“During the pandemic there have been times when there didn’t seem to be as many patients, maybe people were frightened of coming in at first, but most of the time it has been busy and the last few weeks have been incredibly busy and pressured.
“It is physically demanding and tiring, but we are discharging people much more quickly now. It has never been an easy job and always a challenge. Whenever anyone is struggling, we all support each other and there is always someone you can fall back on.
“Everybody has pulled together to get through it, my colleagues are like my second family, and the care is still first class and delivered in the way that it has always been delivered.
“It is not just the nurses as the housekeepers, health care support workers, and porters are all brilliant too. The care never suffers and that’s what I’m most proud of.”
Karen first started her nursing training in 2000 with a mixture of being at the school of nursing, which was based at the hospital, and placements at wards and in the community, including at a GP surgery.
She qualified in 2003 and worked in a cardiac unit, the Johnson Ward, until 2015. After a short spell on another ward, she was elected as Lincoln’s MP in 2017, a position she held until December 2019.
Karen initially went back to work as bank staff before moving onto the Johnson Ward on a temporary contract for three months.
This was renewed in June and she is now a permanent member of staff, where she is contracted to do three seven hour shifts a week or more if required.
She said: “When I was in parliament I kept in touch with my colleagues from the Johnson Ward. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do next (after the election) and when the pandemic hit I thought about what else I can do and went back (to nursing).
“I did toy with the idea of working in other jobs, but I love the people I work with. It has been physically challenging and a gradual learning curve, but I am feeling more secure and confident in what I do. The team at the hospital have always been so supportive to me.”
Karen added that she was pleased when she heard about the vaccine, which will be rolled out nationally from next week to priority groups such as NHS workers.
Karen, who has been looking after her mum as well as working, said “it is great that it will be available” and she will have the vaccine as soon as she is offered it.
Karen has registered online and has swab tests twice a week, which so far have come back negative each time.
The coronavirus crisis impacted her personally back in April when her stepfather, who was in a nursing home, was admitted to A&E with symptoms but sadly died, which she said “destroyed my mum”.