Sheffield nurse tells how fighting COVID-19 in aftermath of Beirut blast and Ebola in West Africa has helped her patients in Sheffield

A Sheffield nurse says fighting Covid-19 in the aftermath of the tragic Beirut blast and Ebola in West Africa has helped her patients here in Sheffield.

Thursday, 30th September 2021, 1:41 pm

A dedicated intensive care nurse, Rowena Williams from Sheffield Teaching Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, says her experience overseas has helped her be ‘the best nurse’ to her Sheffield patients.

Her comments come as a new report is released by frontline medical aid charity UK-Med, which highlights how doctors and nurses who’ve returned from disaster zones bring vital skills and experience back to the NHS.

Rowena said: “When COVID-19 hit last year I was involved in the PPE training in my unit because of the work I’d done with Ebola and infectious diseases. That was something I could offer at my work which I wouldn’t have been able to do if I hadn’t worked with UK-Med.”

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A dedicated intensive care nurse, Rowena Williams from Sheffield Teaching Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, says her experience fighting Ebola and COVID-19 overseas has helped her be ‘the best nurse’ to her Sheffield patients.

When a devastating Ebola epidemic ripped through Sierra Leone West Africa in 2015, Rowena was one of the 150 brave NHS volunteers who offered to help.

Rowena recalls the pain of separating families to keep them safe and the joy when patients were able to go home: “A mother and a daughter came in – mother had a confirmed test but we were still awaiting the daughter’s test. We had to separate them – the daughter was only two or three and you’d never normally separate a mum and child. Unfortunately, they both received a positive diagnosis. With Ebola you never knew who’d survive. Thankfully they both did. We organised a ‘happy shower’ for the mum and daughter – to celebrate their return to the community.”

Rowena’s experience mirrors 88% of UK Med survey responders in the report who say they use the skills directly gained through UK-Med in their COVID-19 response.

When a huge blast at the port of Beirut ripped through the city, killing hundreds and unleashing a deadly COVID-19 wave in August last year, Rowena again stepped forward to help.

A dedicated intensive care nurse, Rowena Williams from Sheffield Teaching Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, says her experience fighting Ebola and COVID-19 overseas has helped her be ‘the best nurse’ to her Sheffield patients.

She’s says, “Last year was a really hard time with COVID-19, but being able to help in Lebanon gave me a fresh perspective.” Rowena talks of the new skills she could bring back to the NHS and how it has developed her confidence and ability to cope. “It’s quite a humbling experience as you meet people who’ve had a completely different life to what I’ve been lucky enough to have. The NHS is going through a hard time, but the opportunities are there.”

The report, released today draws out the many benefits returning clinicians from UK-Med emergency medical responses have brought back to the NHS. Between 83-98 per cent of respondents reported improvements in their clinical skills, resilience, well-being, and the ability to provide better patient experiences. The report makes recommendations to NHS leaders to encourage volunteering for emergency responses as a way to develop skills and protect the NHS.

UK-Med is a Manchester-based frontline medical aid charity with thirty years’ experience responding to health emergencies around the world including the earthquake in Haiti in 2010, the Ebola outbreak in Sierra Leone, West Africa in 2015 and numerous COVID-19 responses in countries ranging from the UK, Bangladesh and Yemen. UK-Med provides doctors, nurses, other health professionals and logistical support for the UK Emergency Medical Team (UK EMT) – the government’s front- line response to a humanitarian crisis overseas.

A dedicated intensive care nurse, Rowena Williams from Sheffield Teaching Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, says her experience fighting Ebola and COVID-19 overseas has helped her be ‘the best nurse’ to her Sheffield patients.