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The Royal Marsden School

The Royal Marsden School and COVID-19

This year, COVID-19 has had an impact on everyone. How the NHS and the people who work for this incredible institution responded to the challenges created by the pandemic, has been exceptional. 

The team working at The Royal Marsden School and Conference Centre have been no exception. Since March, the focus of our work has been to support our clinical colleagues and activity of The Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust, delivering excellent and safe patient care, in a time of incredible uncertainty. Many of the team were re-deployed overnight, to other clinical roles, to provide valuable resources within the hospital for as long as they were needed.

All academic activities and educational events were paused while the team embraced new ways of working and continued to work hard behind the scenes to ensure that our students were supported and that we can still provide an excellent service as soon as we are able.

While we continue to support our clinical colleagues, most of us have now returned to our normal roles. Like many others in the NHS, we have already recognised that while this has been an incredibly challenging situation for everybody, we have gained so much. We have learnt new skills through changing ways of working, forged new relationships with clinical and non-clinical colleagues, and strengthened old ones through supporting The Royal Marsden team. Those of us who remained in the School were able to share expertise and provide support, while gaining a deeper understanding of our clinical colleagues’ work. Three of the team were asked to work in the critical care unit (CCU). One of these describes her experience as follows:

“Once we knew that we were to be locked down, I immediately started working in CCU, initially intending to be a part of the substantive nursing staff. During this time, I helped the fantastic CCU Practice Education team to roll out a programme of teaching to enable ‘cross skilling’ of ward staff so they could help support in CCU if needed. I also had the pleasure of working alongside some ward nurses in CCU and was so impressed by their commitment and bravery. I have continued to work in CCU, and I am developing resources to help staff in case of the need to respond again.”

 Laura Theodossy, Lecturer Practitioner (CCU Clinical Academic).

Once we knew that we were to be locked down, I immediately started working in CCU, initially intending to be a part of the substantive nursing staff.

Laura Theodossy, Lecturer Practitioner (CCU Clinical Academic).

Danielle has also been working in CCU despite her own health concerns. She describes the training she provided below:

“At the beginning I joined Catherine Forsythe and her team of practice educators in CCU where we ran training sessions for nurses, doctors and allied health professionals who had little or no experience in CCU. These sessions consisted of training on ventilators, different modes of ventilation and guidance on how to look after patients with COVID-19 symptoms; donning and doffing of personal protective equipment (PPE); use of medical devices; proning patients (turning on their fronts) and resuscitation. Our team trained more than 180 clinicians in two weeks.”

Danielle Pinnock, Advanced Clinical Programme Lead (CCU Clinical Academic)

Lead for our Haemato-Oncology and Stem Cell Transplant modules, Janet describes her very valuable contribution to the COVID-19 response, as follows:

“I normally work part-time as a Clinical Nurse Specialist within the Apheresis/Transplant service at The Royal Marsden. Since the outbreak of COVID-19, and the temporary closure of the School, I have given my full commitment to supporting the Haemato-Oncology and Transplant services and my clinical colleagues.

This has involved working on the Haemato-Oncology/Transplant wards and the Day Care Unit. I participated in implementing many measures that contributed to patients requiring less time in hospital settings, enabling them to perform some aspects of self-care safely and effectively from home. In the absence of many of my colleagues, who unfortunately have been self-isolating and/or unwell, I have contributed to the running of the Apheresis Unit, allowing the Transplant Service to run smoothly.”

 Janet Baker, Lecturer Practitioner (Haematology Oncology Clinical Academic)

Other members of the team including Flora and Rose, worked with the Trust’s Infection Prevention team:

"During the COVID-19 outbreak I supported the Infection Prevention Team at The Royal Marsden, Sutton. This was a challenge as it was a new area for me, but the team were incredibly welcoming, and the work was rewarding in many ways. The focus of my work was training staff in the use of PPE and other essential COVID-19 information, such as symptoms and the routes of transmission. 

I supported staff in several different areas, including those who do not work directly for the Trust. A young healthcare assistant, who was initially extremely anxious about working on a ward where there were COVID-19 positive patients, felt more confident after receiving training and was happy to work on the ward for the rest of the day."

Rose Ellard (Lecturer Practitioner/Clinical Academic)

Some of the School and Conference Centre Team worked on supporting the Trust’s Pain and Therapies Teams, while others joined The Royal Marsden Macmillan COVID-19 Hotline team. Our Associate Director for Business, Christian Rowley, joined the Trust’s COVID-19 Command and Control Taskforce, working on the Trust’s strategic management of the crisis. 

Our focus moving forward is to ensure all postponed educational events and modules are now delivered. As is the case with many academic organisations, this will take some time to do as we will need to ensure the smooth delivery of high-quality education,  modules and conferences remain as useful to our students as ever whilst being delivered through online platforms. We remain committed to providing an excellent service and our students will not be disadvantaged by the move to virtual events.

Rebecca Verity, Director of The Royal Marsden School and Conference Centre has shared the following:

“I have been incredibly proud to lead my exceptional team and their outstanding response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic has undoubtably been a very strange, and uncertain time for everyone. Indeed, for many it has been devastating. However, I know that I have already gained and learnt much from this experience, including, a deep appreciation of and gratitude for my team and colleagues across the Trust.

We look forward to welcoming you all back very soon.”

If you have any questions or need advice about your studies, please do get in contact with us.