International Nurses’ Day – retired nurse returns to help with Covid 19 patients

Ian Norris, lead stroke nurse at Barking, Havering and Redbridge University Hospitals NHS Trust, retired at the end of April after a 44 year career in nursing – however, just weeks later he is already back on the wards caring for patients during the Covid-19 pandemic.

He said: “The challenge is nothing like I’ve dealt with before. It’s different to how we responded to previous outbreaks, such as flu, because we would be aware of it months before and would have had more time to prepare.

I’ve marvelled at the way our hospitals have effectively split in two to care for patients with and without Covid-19. People have taken on new roles and have found new ways of nursing.

The pandemic has made me want to come back and help after retirement even more because you don’t want to let the side down.”
International Nurses’ Day, on Tuesday 12 May, is a great chance for Ian to reflect on his long and varied career in the NHS. He first joined the Trust as a volunteer in 1976, the day after he turned 14 – and caused some controversy by doing a night shift.

He said: “The staff I was working with thought it was a great idea. But the next day it did cause some panic among managers when they found out a 14-year-old had done a night shift – I guess I have always been a bit of a rebel!”

Ian qualified as a nurse in 1982 and met his partner Richard when they were both working at the former Oldchurch Hospital in 1983.

As well as his time spent caring for patients, Ian also played a pivotal role in setting up the Trust’s clinical skills team in 2000 to help colleagues learn important skills, and took some time away from clinical work to join the Trust’s HR team for several years.

Returning to nursing after years in HR was a challenge, which Ian has likened to how nurses from areas such as outpatients and theatres have recently moved onto the wards to care for patients with Covid 19.

He added: “It can be scary at first. The technology and some of the equipment might be new. However, you soon realise that patients haven’t changed – they’re still the same as when you were last on the wards.

I had kept up my clinical skills through my voluntary work with St John Ambulance, volunteering for events such as the London Marathon and Notting Hill Carnival – however, it is quite different on the side of a road to caring for someone on a ward!”

As lead stroke nurse at the Trust, one of the most rewarding aspects of his job has been seeing patients recover with the right care:

Patients might arrive unable to move one side of their body and/or talk. After treatment, they are able to move and talk again and it may only be a few days before they can go home.”

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