January 22, 2021 5.04 pm This story is over 39 months old

Lincoln nurse feeling pandemic pressures on tense hospital wards

At times she felt like a failure, despite doing a great job

A staff nurse at Lincoln County Hospital is really feeling the pressure during the coronavirus pandemic and said the atmosphere on the wards is always tense.

Mel Kerr, 26, qualified in 2015 and has worked within emergency medicine as a nurse for the United Lincolnshire Hospitals NHS Trust since then.

Mel, who previously had coronavirus, was one of the first to receive the Pfizer vaccine in Lincoln with her first dose on December 8 last year and the second on December 29 and personally feels “a bit more protected”.

At one point Mel felt like walking away, but she was determined to stay for her patients.

Mel told The Lincolnite: “I would say the experience has been incredibly varied initially especially in Lincolnshire as we are a rural community and the first wave, although busy, did not seem to be as catastrophically busy as it has been in the recent months during this second wave.

“The atmosphere on the wards is always tense and you can see how stressed and pressured everyone feels to provide the highest quality care possible despite what the situation is.”

The pressure has been intense and on Monday, January 18 she felt like she could have walked away from the stress of the pandemic, but was determined to stay for her patients.

Mel feels low staffing levels, with wards full of patients with acute and complex medical requirements, are making the situation even more challenging.

Mel qualified in 2015 and has been working at Lincoln County Hospital since.

Mel, who is from Warwickshire but has lived in Lincolnshire for eight years, said: “Monday is usually a busy day for our team anyway, but that day just took it to a whole new level. It was non-stop from 8am through to 6.30pm when I finished.

“I would normally have certain jobs to do, standard jobs within our team to complete in a timely manner, however I did not even get the chance to think about this list of jobs until 4.30pm, meaning I got very little done.

“I felt like I had failed in my duty of care, something I pride myself in very much, so to feel that way just really finished me off.

“I know from colleagues around the country, there are always chronic gaps in staffing, especially as there are 45,000 nursing vaccines alone in the NHS, 100,000+ in total across the professions, and this is something that the government has not improved in any way.

“If anything gets worse and you then add high sickness rates on top of this, then the system just collapses. If we cannot look after our own health adequately, how can we be expected to look after our patients adequately?

“I have experienced many more deaths than I usually would over a few shifts. It makes you feel like no matter what you do, you just cant do anything right.

“It is our nature as healthcare professionals to want to save everyone, and especially when some of these patients are a similar age to yourself, it’s shocking to the core to see these people deteriorate so rapidly despite your best efforts.

“And of course not all deaths are related to COVID, some are your ‘usual’ elderly, chronically unwell individuals but when you add this to others, this can have a significant impact on our mental health.”

Mel has lived in Lincolnshire for eight years.

Mel added that as a team, their redeployment, in addition to their usual rules, has been to do fit testing for all clinical staff for the new FFP3 masks.

Mel is also the lead grassroots campaigner for Lincolnshire for fair pay for all NHS workers ‘#NHSPay15’. She has been involved in the campaigning for around a year in her role as branch chair for North Lincolnshire at the Royal College of Nursing (RCN). She was also elected as a member of the RCN East Midlands Council last month.