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Lecturer’s return to the nursing family after 25 years to support the NHS

Date 21.07.2020

Having to work 12 hour shifts after a professional gap of a quarter of a century didn’t stop one lecturer from returning to her former profession as she stepped up to support the NHS in a time of crisis.

Sharon Smith is a Senior Lecturer in Early Years at the University of Northampton, a position she has held for 15 years.

But in a former life Sharon ‘walked the wards’ as a staff nurse at St. Thomas’ Hospital, London before working as a Health Visitor.

In March this year, the government called for retired or out of practice nurses to return to professional practice as part of the Emergency Volunteering Leave scheme, allowing them to volunteer for a specified time while keeping their day job secure to return to.

The ‘shout out’ to help bolster health service staff numbers during the pandemic rang loud and clear for Sharon, who knew she only had one answer.

She explains: “I returned to the nursing family after 25 years, which was terrifying but hugely rewarding.

“Following a period of intense refresher clinical skills training in a socially distanced classroom – where I was most definitely the very ‘mature’ student! – I got the uniform, and was allocated a busy medical ward at Northampton General Hospital, working as a Health Care Assistant.

“The 12 hour shifts and wearing PPE have been exhausting, but worth it to be able to make a positive difference in a time of crisis. Despite my rusty clinical skills, I was able to care for patients and provide additional support to incredibly hard working and tired nursing staff on a busy ward.

“It was a huge privilege to care for the patients who had no family or friends visiting and they relied on our kindness and smiling eyes behind the masks. We aren’t quite out of the woods yet, so we ask people to continue abiding by the official guidance and Stay Alert.

“The energy and teamwork on the wards has been incredible to witness, and the opportunity to work alongside our fantastic nursing students has been amazing – I feel so proud of them!

“It’s several weeks since I started and I;’m now back at UON but I’m very grateful to the University and especially my Early Years colleagues and my family for supporting me to do this.”

Mark Smith, Chief People Officer for Northampton and Kettering General Hospitals added “We are incredibly grateful to all our people for going above and beyond throughout this pandemic. We especially welcome the support of those returning to practice, whose contributions have been invaluable.

“They have made an immense impact in the care we were able to give our patients, in what for everyone has been a really challenging time, so we’d like to say thank you to all those, like Sharon, who chose to re-join the NHS over the past few months.”