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Published: 01 June 2020

Volunteering with NHS Nightingale and St John Ambulance

Hannah Whitelegg, Veterinary Medicine student, has been volunteering with NHS Nightingale and St John Ambulance.

Hannah Whitelegg

Since the opening of multiple Nightingale Hospitals around the UK, the NHS has been calling on volunteers to help within these temporary critical-care centres. The national health and first aid charity, St John Ambulance, has backed the NHS by providing ambulance crews and highly-trained volunteers to work in hospitals up and down the country.

Hannah’s story started when she first joined St John Ambulance (SJA) as a first year at the Fresher’s Fair in 2018. She sings her praises for SJA: “the student unit on campus was so welcoming to freshers and the sessions were really interesting”. After being highly involved with the charity, Hannah and two friends have been elected to run the Surrey society, with Hannah as President for 2019/20.

As a qualified Advanced First Aider since February this year, Hannah was keen to offer and utilise her skills, such as administering oxygen and airway management, in aid of the national response to the virus. She has given her free time volunteering with SJA as a healthcare assistant and first aider in the NHS Nightingale in London and University Hospital Lewisham. At Lewisham, her role has been based in the Emergency Department helping healthcare professionals by caring for patients, carrying out basic procedures and assisting with daily tasks for both Covid-19 and non Covid-19 patients.

On writing about her experience with volunteering, she says “It was a massive learning curve for all of us – we had to get used to wearing full PPE, working long shifts and helping with patients who were very sick, which was a lot to take in. We felt apprehensive about going to Nightingale especially, as the sheer scale of the operation there was incredible. We had the chance to help people that were really sick and make a difference while working alongside our NHS colleagues; we have gained so much experience from working at Nightingale and in A&E in ways we never thought possible.

“We knew that this was going to be a completely different experience to the usual football matches and marathons we cover with SJA, but the training we were given helped us feel prepared. For some of us, this has opened careers into medicine, or enabled us to build and diversify on skills learnt at university. We look forward to being able to pass this knowledge onto others in our training sessions next year and inspire first years to get out there and save lives!”

Despite putting herself at risk, Hannah thinks towards a future where "we will look back and be proud to say that we helped on the frontline alongside NHS staff.” Our respects go out to Hannah and her fellow Surrey friends, for using their time and incredible skillsets to offer a helping hand to the doctors, nurses and health workers during this difficult time.

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