Ever wondered what it is like to be a frontline health worker? Our new weekly feature explores just that. 

It has been over a year since the first confirmed case of coronavirus in the UK, and hospital staff have been battling the pandemic ever since.

We have teamed-up with Epsom and St Helier Trust to give you an insight into the 'humans of health care'. 

Each week we will shine light on a frontline worker involved in the day-to-day running of Epsom-St Helier hospitals.

This week we feature Ann Harris, Senior Staff Nurse, who was due to semi-retire in December 2020 after 34 years since she first qualified as a nurse - but bravely opted to return to the frontline to support the fight against Covid-19. "I always wanted to be a nurse", Ann said.

"I instinctively cared for others from a young age, inspired by my mum who was a NHS maternity assistant. The day I qualified in March 1987 will always be special to me – I had so many expectations about the future and my entire career lay ahead of me.

The site of the former Queen Marys Hospital in Carshalton

The site of the former Queen Mary's Hospital in Carshalton

"I’ve been in many roles since completing my training, but always gravitate towards caring for children and young people.

"I worked in the original Queen Mary’s Children’s Hospital in Carshalton for two years after qualifying, before moving to the neonatal unit at St Helier, and later into school nursing once I’d had children.

"Around ten years ago I co-founded the Check It Out service, an outreach contraception and sexual health service for young people that is still providing essential support to those who need it, a decade after setup."

Ann said since the pandemic started in 2020, she has been redeployed twice,

"In summer 2020, I moved to support the Health and Wellbeing Team for Older People", she continued.

"A patient there stressed how much he missed chatting with friends during lockdown, and I was lucky enough to fill that role whilst he was in my care.

"He told me he’d been craving Scotch eggs for weeks, so the following day I bought some and we enjoyed them together whilst chatting about his family and friends. It was just as important as talking about his health needs, and it made a big difference to him.

"More recently I was seconded to the NHS Seacole Centre, our COVID-19 rehabilitation unit set up on the grounds of a former military hospital, to help those recovering from the disease. It is very different from my usual role, and I’ve had to relearn lots of the skills I used as a ward nurse all those years ago."

"I’m also part of the COVID-19 vaccination team and – as cheesy as it sounds – I feel privileged to be able to make a difference."

And Ann has first-hand experience of the terrible disease, having been hospitalised herself for it.

She added: "I had Covid myself in March and was hospitalised for two weeks. Those caring for me were so compassionate, and I really appreciated the little things they did to make me more comfortable – as well as the amazing team who saved my life of course!”

If you'd like to work for Epsom and St Helier NHS Trust, you can check out the most recent career opportunities here.

Stay tuned for next week's feature on Friday, March 12.