“I worked on all COVID-19 related enquires from Barts Health Trust team members and their families. This would include answering calls to assess their exposure to the virus, and appropriately advising them on what they should do.”
As part of our support to the NHS during the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic, Emma Lewis temporarily swapped her role as Health and Wellbeing Physiologist at Nuffield Health, to work as a COVID-19 Advisor at the Royal London Hospital, part of Barts Health NHS Trust. Emma tells us about her NHS secondment.
Emma, why did you choose to support the NHS?
The NHS provides a unique health service and it’s unimaginable what we would do without it. I offered to be redeployed during the pandemic so I could to help support our healthcare services, and ease pressure. My family are all key workers, and I felt helping would not only be for me, but to ensure I did everything I could to help them.
Tell us about the role you did within the NHS? What do you enjoy about it?
I was redeployed to the Royal London Hospital, part of Barts Health NHS Trust, in the Occupational Health team as a COVID-19 Advisor. I worked on all COVID-19 related enquires from Barts Health Trust team members and their families. My main role was answering calls to assess their exposure to the virus, and appropriately advising them on what they should do, following the Trust’s procedures and government guidelines. From here, PCR swabs would be arranged, processed and results relayed back to the team member. The role is very dynamic and the Occupational Health team worked on COVID-19 enquiries such as about Test and Trace; pilot studies; and performing antibody tests. But this variation is what I enjoyed the most. Knowing I was there (even for the less exciting roles) to help is something to be proud of.
What were the toughest challenges in your seconded role?
The toughest challenge was to adapt to the changing COVID-19 guidelines from the Government and Public Health England such as travel restrictions (I’m sure they changed on a weekly basis!) and specific guidelines for healthcare workers. Having to track this as a department was challenging, especially when staff were calling you non-stop! I really learned the importance of teamwork and communication.
How was your role with the NHS different to your role at Nuffield Health?
My NHS role was different to my usual role as a Health and Wellbeing Physiologist – completely different. As a Physiologist, I do a variety of tests to determine risk of disease, and then coach on lifestyle and behaviour changes to reduce this risk. This requires face-to-face contact in comparison to a more sedentary role behind a computer and phone. Although I did not have any clinical application, and more of an administrative role, I have been able to transfer communication skills, particularly empathy and motivational interviewing to adapt to my NHS role.
Was working for the NHS different to what you expected? If so, in what way?
The main thing is the attitude of the NHS - it is a 'get it done' atmosphere, and no hanging around! I think this has been due to the urgency of the pandemic, but they also showed how adaptable they were and willingness to support one another. I have taken this back to my role in Nuffield Health and I feel I have become a better Physiologist because of it.
What would you say to someone else at Nuffield Health who is thinking of supporting the NHS?
Do it. It’s an extremely rewarding experience. I have been redeployed twice into the same role! Yes, it can be difficult, but it is important to be open to a new environment. However, you must always remember if you don't feel comfortable in doing something, or feel it is outside of your scope, let them know to ensure you have the required training.
How did you get on with your NHS colleagues?
They are great! It is always nerve-wracking when you are first introduced. I feel they are like are a second family to my Nuffield Health family! Because of this great relationship, that was why I was able to be redeployed again so easily the second time, which I appreciate.
Did you work with other Nuffield Health secondees or people who don’t usually work for the NHS?
I have worked with multiple Nuffield Health colleagues, including Health and Wellbeing Physiologists, Fitness Managers and Customer Service Advisors from fitness and wellbeing centres and corporate services. I have also worked with highly banded NHS doctors and nurses who have also been redeployed into the role or have applied to be there. The whole team works very hard together. I’m confident I have formed a long-lasting relationship with the team.