What (or who) inspired you to pursue a career in the NHS?
According to my neighbours, who knew me as a child, I was very clear that when I grew up I was going to be a nurse. I spent a lot of time walking around in a nurse’s uniform, so I suspect it’s in my blood.
How did your role change, or what new skills did you need to learn as part of the COVID-19 outbreak?
Our leadership roles have become much more strategic during COVID-19. We saw the pandemic spreading westwards in mid-January and immediately started planning and preparing the estate, the staff and our strategy. Our priority was always ensuring our staff were prepared and protected, and ensuring we had adequate capacity, equipment and consumables for our patients. Ultimately, we expanded our ICU capacity over 3.5-fold, with plans to expand it over 5-fold if needed. Extracting and filtering relevant information from the explosion of meetings, emails, and bulletins was a huge challenge. However it was vital to do so as it allowed us to stay ahead of the challenges of this pandemic: ensuring adequate staffing, modelling likely patient numbers, supply issues, reconfiguring the estate, ensuring our oxygen supply would meet the demand, finding alternatives to the national shortages of drugs, consumables and equipment, liaising with the estates, procurement and projects teams as a new 13 bedded negative pressure ICU was built in 42 days, all on top of a full time clinical job.
We were also learning the whole time too – this was a disease unlike anything we had seen before in intensive care and we had to translate this learning into a clear and consistent clinical strategy to ensure consistency amongst our team when caring for our patients.
Working long hours, performing high risk procedures and communicating in PPE, as well as working in the theatre environment, which we adapted for ICU use, has also been tough for all our staff. We have all learned to deal with this thanks to the humility, determination and good nature of the people we work with on ICU. Finally, we have had to adapt our strategic planning as the hospital both tries to catch up with surgery which requires the support of ICU, and prepares itself for what may come next.
What did you think of the 'Clap for Carers'?
It made us both feel proud, emotional, humbled and slightly awkward. Our jobs give us a unique opportunity to intervene in the lives of those who are at the edges or fringes of their lives, and, in most cases, turn that trajectory around. This is intensive care. It is an area of medicine that most people have no concept of, and (thankfully) no experience of. So to see the spotlight shone on what is in many ways the job we have been doing for many years and see it appreciated in such a public way, was a very moving experience. ts is a very rewarding experience.
NHS Hero: Margi Jenkins
Matron, Intensive Care and Outreach in Bath
Can you tell us a little bit about your role and how long you have been part of the NHS?
I have worked in the NHS for 35 years, in several roles, all based around intensive care nursing in Southmead, UH Bristol and the RUH. I also co-led the set-up of a cardiac surgery unit in Trinidad in 1995. I have been the matron for ICU in Bath since 2019.
As the clinical leadership team for intensive care, we are responsible for the estate, staff, training, equipment, consumables and processes on the ICU in Bath. Whilst delivering intensive care requires every single individual within our team, ultimately we are responsible for the quality of care, safety, and patient outcomes. Leading the ICU and representing our unit within the hospital and the intensive care network requires time, hard work and dedication, but driving the evolution and adaptation of the unit to the needs of our patients is a very rewarding experience.
After the pandemic, what are you most looking forward to doing again?
I want to pick up a number of projects which were deprioritised as the pandemic hit, for example creating an outside space to allow our patients to experience fresh air and sunshine. Away from work, I want to spend more time with my family (I missed the lockdown experience; they seemed to have lots of fun and look back with fond memories over that period). I miss being able to see and experience live music – I had several events booked for this year including Shamabla and Glastonbury They are minor things, but important for work life balance and well-being!
What, if anything, do you think we may have learned about ourselves from the pandemic?
COVID-19 has reminded me that we make an incredible team here at the RUH, both inside and outside of ICU. It has amazed me; the determination and resilience shown by so many staff, trying their hardest, going into the unknown during a global pandemic, all the time caring for our patients with kindness and compassion, in the same way that we would care for our own families. It has been a truly remarkable insight into humanity.
What aspects of your life will you embrace more of, or worry less about, after having been at the rock face during the virus?
Working in critical care, for so many years we witness the fine line between life and death, as a result I’ve always embraced living life to the full. COVID has just reaffirmed that – but it’s more about enjoying the simple things in life – long dog walks and exploring the wonderful place we live in.