As a nurse in intensive care, Francescah Hayward was right on the frontline at the height of the coronavirus pandemic.
But she wouldn’t have wanted to be anywhere else.
Even after contracting Covid-19, and still suffering after-effects of fatigue and insomnia, she is intending to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the rest of the team in the face of a second wave of the virus.
She said: “It is scary, and people don’t like saying that because they think it makes them seem weak.
“But I am a nurse, and I am needed to help care for the patients who end up really sick and in critical care, so I will go to work.
“There is anxiety about a second wave, and I really don’t want to get sick again, but I will go because that’s what nurses to do.
“And when you see patients who go home, it makes it all worthwhile. It is so rewarding to be able to reunite people with their families.”
Francescah originally thought she would follow her mum’s footsteps and become a midwife, but decided to study adult nursing first to investigate all the options.
And after starting her career on the wards, she quickly realised she wanted a new challenge and applied for a role in intensive care.
She said: “This is the nursing I need to do. I love the adrenaline rush, how busy it is, and how complex and challenging it is.
“It keeps me on my toes, and the support of the team is fantastic. Nurses, consultants, support staff – we all work together, we all have a voice and we’re all listened to.
“There is so much that is positive, even in these challenging times. I love where I am, I am in the best place with an amazing team, I feel supported and listened to and my voice matters.
“As a sister, I’m able to support junior colleagues and I find that so rewarding.”
That support has proved even more vital throughout the pandemic, as staff cope with not only the physical challenges of wearing personal protective equipment but the emotional toll of caring for so many sick patients.
Francescah said: “It was challenging in so many ways. It was heart-breaking – speaking to families on the phone you could feel their pain when they couldn’t be there for their loved ones.
“It does take a toll on our mental wellbeing, and the exhaustion also set in after a while.
“For me, as a black nurse, the additional risk that posed was on my mind but we dealt with what we did with no fear, and with incredible teamwork.
“We couldn’t have done it without the support of our colleagues.”
Francescah is passionate about supporting other staff from Black, Asian and Ethnic Minority backgrounds and is part of East Kent Hospitals’ BAME network where she can do just that.
She moved to the UK from Zimbabwe aged eight, but quickly adapted to her new life – even if the weather was a bit of a shock.
She said: “There were not many black people when I came. I remember when I started school there were probably three other black people in the school.
“But it is a land of opportunity and if you work hard you can achieve.
“There are challenges, but we all have a voice and we can use it to make improvements.
“As part of the BAME network I want to show there is always someone who is willing to listen. We can work together to make sure the Trust is a welcoming place for everyone, and I want to help other nurses achieve what they want to in their career.
“Everyone is important – black, white or green – but some people face difficulties others don’t and we can highlight that and ask for change.”