Academic returns to nursing to help NHS in pandemic

28 May 2020

  • Academic takes brave step to re-register as a nurse in pandemic
  • Charlotte Croft is nursing at Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham
  • The 34 year-old's sister has been struck down with coronavirus
  • She says she is proud to be working alongside committed NHS staff

Charlotte Croft has swapped the lecture theatre for a hospital theatre after returning to nursing to help the UK’s National Health Service (NHS) fight the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Associate Professor of Human Resource Management left her role as a nurse at Nottingham University Hospital in 2013 to work in academia, but decided to answer the Government’s call to return to the frontline to help the thousands suffering from Coronavirus.

Dr Croft (pictured) admitted it was a difficult decision to return to nursing during the crisis, especially as she has a young son and her younger sister, a junior doctor, had contracted the virus, so she knew the risks she was taking.

"The level of fear and uncertainty, from both staff and patients, is not like anything I have witnessed before,” said the 34 year-old, who is working at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham. “But I am proud to be working alongside the committed and compassionate NHS staff who continually put the needs of their patients before their own, and put their own fears aside to reassure patients who cannot have the comfort of visits from their families.

“The decision to return to the frontline is obviously a daunting one, and the associated risks were something I spent a lot of time discussing with my family, as I have a three year-old son.

“My sister has herself been extremely unwell with pneumonia caused by contracting the virus at work.

Brave step: Charlotte Croft heading back to nursing

“However, nurses are one of our most important resources in the response to COVID-19. Patients admitted to hospital at this time are not allowed visitors, meaning they and their families are reliant on educated, compassionate nurses to provide quality care and emotional support during a terrifying experience.

“In addition, those who are admitted to hospital will likely require some level of ventilation to help them breathe, or other life support - such as machines to help their kidneys work, or medication to support their heart.”

The pandemic has seen more than 5.5 million infected across the world with the Coronavirus and more than 350,000 die, with many countries going into lockdown to protect lives and try to maintain their healthcare system.

It has been an unprecedented global crisis with the UK having one of the highest death rates in the world and the Government erecting temporary Nightingale hospitals up and down the country to cope with the influx of patients.

Dr Croft felt that because of her experience of working in Intensive Care Units (ICU) as a nurse she could help with the huge demands on the NHS.

“It takes years to train ICU nurses who can care for such unwell patients,” said Dr Croft. “And as I have previously had such training and experience, I felt I had a duty to return to help my colleagues in the NHS however I could.”

She added: “When the COVID-19 crisis began to worsen in the UK, the Nursing and Midwifery Council asked all nurses whose registration had elapsed in the last three years to return to the frontline.

“My registration elapsed longer than three years ago, but because I have ICU experience I was asked to return to the NHS as a healthcare assistant, while undertaking a three-month ‘Back to Practice’ course to reinstate my registration.

“I will initially be working as a healthcare assistant while I re-register as an ICU Staff Nurse. I am currently working across all wards at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham, assisting registered nurses in the care of extremely unwell patients with COVID-19.”

Dr Croft trained to be a nurse at the University of Nottingham from 2004 to 2008, before starting work at Adddenbrooke’s Hospital, Cambridge, at the age of 22. After 18 months she was offered the chance to do a fully funded three-year PhD at Nottingham University Business School, while carrying on part-time in the ICU at Nottingham University Hospital.

At 27 she moved to WBS as a post-doctoral research fellow focused on nursing leadership and could no longer manage to juggle the demanding 13-hour clinical shifts, so left nursing.

“I never thought I would be back nursing seven years later,” said Dr Croft. “The circumstances are extremely difficult, and may continue to be so for some time, but there is a sense that, if we all work together, at some point this will be over.”

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