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Amanda Coutinho is studying Access to Higher Education Diploma in Nursing at Merton. During the Covid pandemic, she has been working as a Heath Care Assistant at St George's Hospital in Tooting. Amanda has written a moving first hand account of working in ICUs, caring for Covid patients. Read more about her personal experience on the frontline.

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"I have been working as a Health Care Assistant (HCA) in St George’s Hospital for four years. During this time I spent 18 months on an Oncology ward, caring for patients with cancer, and then in the Paediatrics department. Currently, I am working in Intensive Care with Covid patients and I believe that my experience in Oncology has given me the emotional and mental strength to be here now. It is a fast-paced environment, where we need to know exactly what we are doing and maintain a high level of concentration. HCAs and Support Nurses stay outside of the bays, ready to support the Nurses inside, such as providing medicine and materials. We work as a team, which is beautiful to see in these tough times. Every little bit of help is important. All students, ranging from those studying medicine to dental nurse courses, are there to help in the fight against Covid. It’s important to say that people working in the domestic department are fantastic too – the ICUs would be messy and impossible places to carry out clinical tasks without the valuable work they do. Tragically, two have died during this pandemic.

St George’s Hospital is providing proper PPE for all staff and testing all patients in wards and ICUs. It is a really good hospital for patients and staff. The local community is also being very helpful, bringing in meals for all staff in ICUs.

It is important to realise that the emotional charge is big and we always fear that it could be one of us, or someone that we love, in a hospital bed and intubated. I admit that it can be scary. However, the passion for the job and the feeling of belonging shouts louder and stronger. I’ve seen patients of all ages passing away, which is devastating. When I’m back at home I avoid reading negative news and I do something good for my own wellbeing. My partner is also a Nurse and therefore is supportive and understanding of my job.

The pandemic hit the UK while I was studying Disease and Immunity in my Access to Nursing course at Merton College and I learnt how to link the theory and practice together. My ambition is to become a registered Paediatric Nurse, so the knowledge I have gained about diseases and their potential complications is a valuable opportunity to learn skills for my future career."