Working at the Nightingale

Oxford Brookes Physiotherapy alumnus, Anthony Gilbert ’10 chose to work at the London Nightingale Hospital. Here he talks about working in a temporary hospital with colleagues who have not met each other before at a time of crisis – and why, for him, it was an inspiring experience.

“I am doing a PhD and was pulled back into clinical care. I was given the option of being deployed within my hospital – the Royal National Orthopaedic – or to the Nightingale. And I chose the Nightingale. When the call went out I realised I had the skills they were looking for.

“I have two young kids and I made the decision together with my family. It meant being separated from them – I was mostly based in a hotel for six weeks – but it felt like the right thing to do.

I saw the first patient come in and the last one go out!

“I went there at the beginning of April, completed my induction training, and was on shift on the 7th of April when the first patient came in. And I was also on shift when the last patient left, on Wednesday 6th May. So I saw the first patient come in and the last one go out!

“My role was delivering Intensive Care Physio – assessing and treating patients on ventilators. This included giving them Respiratory Physiotherapy by making sure they’re in the right position so that they’re getting the most possible oxygen from their lungs into their bloodstream. Each individual patient is different but in a lot of cases it involved lying them face down, what we call proning the patient.

Anthony Gilbert in Nightingale 500x500

“Also we were giving patients daily stretches so they didn’t develop stiffness. When patients became well enough to come off the ventilators, we had to work with them so they were able to sit up in bed and we would help them get back on their feet. So I was seeing patients when they very sick and on a ventilator, right through to them walking again.

“The London Nightingale was a custom-built Intensive Care Unit in a massive conference hall. So a strange setting and obviously under very difficult circumstances. But for me it was really inspiring being there.

I’ve met really good people who I know I’ll be in contact with for the rest of my career.

“Nobody knew one another beforehand and none of us really knew what to expect, it was inspiring to work alongside such wonderful people.

“For example I was talking to a Nurse from a GP surgery, who hadn’t worked in an ICU for ten years but had wanted to do what he could to help. Everybody was mucking in and getting through it together. This made it an inspiring place to work.

“From a personal and professional point of view, its been a great development experience. When you do something new like that you will quickly grow and develop. And I’ve met really good people who I know I’ll be in contact with for the rest of my career.”

Anthony’s lockdown tip: 
“If you’re not having to go to work as normal then it’s an opportunity to discover new walks, runs or bike rides. Or to try out a new hobby that keeps you active.”

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