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From the F1 front-row to the Covid front-line

Su Chantry is Occupational Health Manager for the Williams Formula One team. As a registered nurse she has chosen to return to the NHS to support the response to Covid-19. Here she talks about the challenges she’s faced, her positive experiences and the importance of asking for help when you need it.

“I didn’t give it a second thought, I knew I needed to support the Covid response in whatever way I could. The racing team at Williams were all furloughed so this was a chance to make use of my clinical skills in a positive way.

“I’m on a rapid response team at the John Radcliffe and am allocated a ward just an hour before my shift. Basically I just go where I’m needed. So one day I might be on A&E or the Cardiac Care ward where it’s very task-orientated roles, and the next I’m on a general ward doing patient care and supporting other staff

There have been shifts where it’s been quite distressing

“All the time, I do feel like I’m part of something important. But there have been shifts where it’s been quite distressing.

“For example there was a man who wanted to talk to his mum, but he couldn’t. He was upset that he couldn’t talk to her and I felt sad that I couldn’t let him. She was a little confused and didn’t quite get why she couldn’t talk to him – it was heartbreaking.

“But there have been lovely moments as well. One of my older patients was well enough to be discharged and I had the pleasure of taking him down to meet his waiting family. It was a wonderful feeling to be part of that.

The support from my race-team colleagues and management has been really touching

“It’s been really hard to switch off when I go home. I’ve had to develop a bit of a routine. First of all I phone a friend on my way home. And then when I get back I go through a decontamination procedure: my partner puts my dressing-gown and slippers by the back door and I take off my clothes – the ones I travel back and forth in – and put them in the machine, and then I have a shower.

“My sleep pattern has really been disturbed and I often find myself worrying about the next day’s shift. But the well-being support at the JR is excellent. And the support from my race-team colleagues and management has been really touching.

If this situation enables us to see what our priorities are then that will be one good thing to come out of it

“It’s important to have the right support around you and ask for help when you need it. As a society we are good at not asking for help and seeing it as a sign of weakness. But it’s okay to not be okay sometimes.

“My family are very important. I describe them as my key-workers. On a Thursday, I did a late shift and got home about quarter past nine – well after the eight o’clock applause. But my daughter told our neighbours I’d be coming home late and they came out to applaud me as I got back!

“Covid has impacted so many people on so many levels, I don’t think its impact is going away. The new-found respect for the work nurses do is overwhelmingly positive and if this situation enables us to see what our priorities are then that will be one good thing to come out of it.”


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