Former patient Kate turns healthcare assistant to help Trust during Covid-19 pandemic.

Kate Baker has joined Barking, Havering and Redbridge University Hospitals NHS Trust as a much-needed healthcare assistant during the Covid-19 pandemic. Kate has a history with the Trust – she was inspired to become a patient partner after she was treated at Queen’s Hospital for a benign brain tumour in 2016.

Kate is now on the wards helping to care for patients, and has shared, in her own words, how she’s finding it, and how it just might just have inspired her on a new career path….

If you had said to me three and a half months ago I would be working as a healthcare assistant (HCA) in a hospital I would have thought you were insane. Mind you, if you had also said to me three and a half years ago that same hospital would save my life, after being continually misdiagnosed with a sinus infection that was actually a brain tumour, then I definitely would have thought you were! But here we are and it is what it is.

A lot has happened in the years after those six days on Sahara B ward at Queen’s Hospital; whether it’s been presenting about the importance of patient centred care to new staff, sitting as the patient partner for Specialist Medicine as the patient voice on our Trust’s clinical strategy, or just casually walking across the Sahara Desert to raise money for The Brain Tumour Charity in honour of the wonderful ward with the same name where the team put me back on my feet. And although it was only a very short period of time in the grand scheme of things I was on Sahara B, it made me realise that time is the most valuable commodity we have; so spend it wisely.

“When Covid-19 hit I was furloughed from my job and patient partne
rs were put on standby. So with time on my hands I should have taken the opportunity to just stay at home and probably have a long- awaited break. But when I read in our Coronavirus Daily Bulletin our Trust was crying out for temporary HCAs to help out, excuse the neurosurgery pun; but it was a no brainer.

Since taking up the role people continually ask me; ‘How’s it going, you enjoying it?’ I’ll be honest; I don’t know where to start. I don’t know whether to scream; ‘Oh my God! It’s full on, I don’t stop and absolutely love it!’, or, ‘It’s so cool… and I’m doing things I never thought I could stomach, but why did I not do this sooner!’, even; ‘Look at me wearing trainers to work for once!’ But really what I want to tell everyone calmly and sincerely is; ‘It completely makes sense.’ 

It makes sense because the reason why I had such a beautiful experience all those years ago is that the doctors and nurses on Sahara B cared. They cared about themselves, they cared about each other and that meant they cared about me. When all those things present themselves you get passion. That’s what I have had for all these years; passion, not just for our Trust, but for people who fall victim to being at the worst moment in their life. Because that was me once, and the brief moment of kindness and compassion on Sahara B at the lowest point of my life reminded me that the world was not against me. If I could do that for just one person it will be completely worth it and a job worth doing.

So it’s taken a bit of a windy road and a global pandemic, but I have found what I was looking for and it’s a career path in nursing. Might mean fewer heels and more flats, but definitely a new bag – especially if you’re going back to school.

And I know 47 miles down the A12 is a long way to come when there are nearer places. Yes, I could be a HCA at my local hospital in Colchester. I’m pretty sure I could volunteer there too. They were the ones who kindly rang Queen’s hospital for advice that fateful morning and they put me in an ambulance after all. But this Trust is where it is and there is no place I would rather spend my time.”

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