A Swansea University graduate has spoken of her immense pride at being part of the NHS during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Joanne Hill, from Burry Port, is currently working on a medical assessment unit at the Prince Philip Hospital in Llanelli, with all patients admitted to the unit suffering from coronavirus.
After graduating with a nursing degree from Swansea University last year and beginning her career, she was thrust into the frontline as Covid-19 spread across the globe.
But the experience so far, despite its challenges, has left Joanne in no doubt about what it means to be an NHS worker in these unprecedented times.
“Being a nurse during this pandemic has left me feeling extremely proud,” she said. “I work with an amazing team of doctors and nurses who have planned and worked very hard to prevent the unit from running over capacity.
“We have seen some amazing success stories where patients have been discharged after being admitted to us very unwell.
“Not only am I proud to be a part of an amazing team, but I am proud to work for the NHS. The admiration and support the sector has had from the public has been overwhelming at times, and it is rewarding to know that as a profession we are valued.”
Joanne is a success story in her own right, having turned her life around in quite remarkable fashion.
The 42-year-old came close to losing her life eight years ago when her heroin addiction spiralled out of control, leaving her in hospital with endocarditis as well as losing her two children, Callum and Kian, to the care of her grandparents.
But Joanne fought back and, inspired by the care shown to her, got her life back on track and became a nurse herself.
“The hardest point for me personally during this pandemic is knowing that families can't be with their loved ones as they pass away,” she said.
“I have had to hold phones for family members to FaceTime their loved ones who are dying as they are unable to be there to say goodbye - that has been heart-breaking.
“The constant changing of guidelines as we receive information has been challenging. In our hospital we have had a sufficient supply of PPE but we realise that it is limited, so therefore it is used sparingly.”
Being away from family members is something that has been tough for many people under the current social distancing measures.
“The worry of contracting the virus and passing it on to loved ones is a huge worry,” said Joanne, who lives with her two sons, Kian, 17, and Callum, 21.
“I have had to isolate from my grandmother, as well as my mother and stepfather. My gran is nearly 84 with comorbidities and my stepdad is 69 with health conditions so they have been self-isolating.
“It is hard staying away from them, but we have video calls regularly and stay in touch that way. Being away from family members, coupled with experiencing patient deterioration and a high death toll, is not in the usual job description of a nurse but we do it because it is our job.
“We all became nurses to care for others before ourselves. We have been offered support from the clinical health psychology team for those who are feeling anxious or overwhelmed by the current situation.”
The NHS and its workers have drawn plaudits and admiration across the country for their tireless and relentless work in helping to care for patients during the current pandemic, and Joanne had a firm message for anyone who might be thinking of pursuing a nursing career in the future.
“I have loved every minute of it,” she said. “It is everything I imagined it to be and more, and I feel so privileged to care for patients and make a difference.
“I would advise anyone thinking about becoming a nurse to go for it. It is a demanding degree but being a part of our amazing NHS makes any struggles faced worthwhile. We needed nurses before the pandemic, and we will need nurses after this has passed.”