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Research on the Covid-19 frontline

Adult Nursing alumna, Susan Johnston ’13 talks about her role in Covid-19 research at the John Radcliffe Hospital (pictured above) in Oxford and how NHS workers are continuing to apply their skills and expertise, essential to us at all times, in extraordinary circumstances.

“We’re all professionals doing our best in a difficult situation.

“I graduated from Brookes in 2013 and then worked in the Cardiothoracic Ward at the JR before moving to an Anaesthetics and Recovery in Theatres role at the Horton General Hospital in Banbury. I then became a research nurse there last year.

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Susan (left) with colleagues Joy Edwards and Wendy Byrne

“The studies I was working on have been put on hold so that we can all switch to CV19 research. I actually got the call when I was on leave and started at the JR the following Monday (30 March).

“There are four different CV19 studies being done, and I’m working on three of them – going into wards explaining to patients, who have tested positive, what is involved and asking for their consent to take part. Many patients are only too happy to help and want to say ‘yes’ before I’ve even had a chance to go through it!

“But it is very important to explain it fully to them. One of the studies is a randomised-trial testing the effectiveness of existing drugs that have been developed for other illnesses. For each patient, I check with the ward doctor that the drug is safe for them.

My colleagues and I are doing the jobs we’ve trained to do

“The work is the same type as my usual role but I have to be extra mindful of the dangers of infection. I try to speak to as many patients by phone as possible but many are elderly and don’t use mobiles so I have to meet them face-to-face.

“It is vital to minimise contact and I wear PPE, including a face mask, when on the wards. Ideally I would stay at least two metres from patients but a lot of them don’t have great hearing so I have to move closer for them to hear me properly.

“When I come off the wards I completely change my uniform for infection control. There is also admin in my role – recording consent, checking all the necessary checks have been done and things like that. So I have a separate uniform to do the office work.

“Morale in the hospital is good. I appreciate the support from the public, I think we all do. But really, my colleagues and I are doing the jobs we’ve trained to do. The pandemic hasn’t changed that.”


Kieron Salter ’93 is co-ordinating PPE manufacturing and developing new products for the Covid response >>>

Anthony Gilbert ’10 was a physiotherapist at the London Nightingale Hospital >>>

Let’s get through this together – alumni Covid-19 stories >>>

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