NHS Hero

NHS Hero: Richard Howman
Healthcare Assistant, Intensive Care

Can you tell us a little bit about your role and how long you have been part of the NHS?

I joined the Critical Care team at the RUH in June this year, as I wanted to use my previous skills as an Army Reserve Combat Medic to help during the COVID crisis. A normal day for me in Intensive Care involves helping support the nurses, doctors and physiotherapists care for critically ill patients within both of our two Intensive Care units at the Hospital. Pierce Ward ICU is a state of the art Intensive Care unit built specially in response to the COVID crisis.

What (or who) inspired you to pursue a career in the NHS?
I believe that the capacity to reach out and care for other people is within us all, but for me I was drawn to healthcare after working as a Ward Clerk and Auxiliary Nurse at Southampton General Hospital, whilst at University (studying Fine Art!). Later on I joined the Army and later the Army Reserve, where I trained as a Combat Medical Technician at 243 Field Hospital in Keynsham – just down the road from the hospital! (co-incidentally, our new Chief Executive is also the Honorary Colonel of my old Army Unit!). During these times I met and worked with some outstanding medical teams, including those at the incredible Army Medical Service Training Centre in York, and was particularly drawn to nursing and pre-hospital emergency care, as well as battlefield trauma. Here in ITU there are some truly amazing nurses and doctors who I learn from every single day.

How did your role change, or what new skills did you need to learn as part of the COVID-19 outbreak?

COVID brought about changes for everyone at the hospital, and for us here in Intensive Care it brought new equipment, new staff, new PPE and uniforms, new training and even a brand new ITU ward – built for us in in just a month! The requirement for close teamwork has always been an essential element of working in Critical Care, and the COVID pandemic has forged us even closer together as we adapted quickly to care for our patients in the ‘new normal’. We’re still hiring new nurses to join us and train as ITU specialists – it’s the friendliest place to work and offers some amazing opportunities – and I wasn’t told to say that!

What did you think of the 'Clap for Carers'?

We always welcome support for what we do here in the NHS, and I was delighted and grateful to anyone who took the time to ‘Clap for Carers’. It was a unique and sometimes emotional gesture at a very difficult time for us all. Also for the amazing displays of NHS Rainbows and kind messages of thanks and which appeared everywhere – including those written on the bags of PPE we still receive today. We always share these messages with the whole team. It’s tremendously important to us to hear that the people of Bath and the surrounding areas are behind us in caring for them.

5: What do you love most about living in Bath?

I love Bath’s unique history. 

After the pandemic, what are you most looking forward to doing again?
I’m not making any plans for what happens after COVID. Just dealing with each day as it comes, and working as part of the Critical Care Team to do the very best we can for the patients in our care. As well as the obvious and well reported COVID patients we care for, we still have a normal flow of patients and an additional care requirement for those affected indirectly by the lockdown.

What, if anything, do you think we may have learned about ourselves from the pandemic?

I think we’re more in touch with our humanity. More aware of each other and how fragile our bodies and our communities are. 

What aspects of your life will you embrace more of, or worry less about, after having been at the rock face during the virus?
For us here in the NHS, we deal with the cycle of life and death as an everyday part of our work. So whether it’s this particular COVID virus, or any other event which has an impact on the health of the population, we are already well and truly immersed. As for ‘worry’, that never really helps, does it? In my experience, action beats fear, so I’ll continue to join my colleagues in throwing ourselves at whatever comes our way, putting our patients at the forefront of everything we do.