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Meet 11 Suffolk nurses doing YOU proud on International Nurses Day

PUBLISHED: 06:01 12 May 2020 | UPDATED: 07:25 12 May 2020

Today is International Nurses Day. Clockwise from left, Ronnie Torkornoo, Napoleon Manaog, Charlotte Perth and Helen Ballam. Picture: NORFOLK AND SUFFOLK NHS FOUNDATION TRUST/WEST SUFFOLK HOSPITAL NHS FOUNDATION TRUST/CHARLOTTE PERTH

Today is International Nurses Day. Clockwise from left, Ronnie Torkornoo, Napoleon Manaog, Charlotte Perth and Helen Ballam. Picture: NORFOLK AND SUFFOLK NHS FOUNDATION TRUST/WEST SUFFOLK HOSPITAL NHS FOUNDATION TRUST/CHARLOTTE PERTH

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Today is International Nurses Day - and what better time could there be to say a truly heartfelt thank you to those risking themselves for our health, well-being and ultimately our lives?

A message of support for the staff at Ipswich Hospital. Picture: Motion MappingA message of support for the staff at Ipswich Hospital. Picture: Motion Mapping

In the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic, there is ever-growing appreciation for those working on the frontline in Suffolk care homes and hospitals to fight the illness.

Of course, nurses have long been doing heroic, life-saving work - but the nature of the current virus means their selfless contribution is getting the true recognition it deserves.

So as Suffolk prepares to celebrate what is perhaps the most poignant ever International Nurses Day, who are some of the heroes caring for us in a time of crisis?

‘Nursing isn’t just my job, it’s my passion’ - Charlotte Perth, formerly Ipswich Hospital and now King’s College Hospital, London

Paediatric intensive care unit nurse Charlotte Perth says: “I witness what is often the worst time in people’s lives, so I think it’s really important to give them as positive an experience as possible.”

Charlotte Perth, an intensive care unit nurse from Ipswich who works at King's College Hospital in London. Picture: CHARLOTTE PERTHCharlotte Perth, an intensive care unit nurse from Ipswich who works at King's College Hospital in London. Picture: CHARLOTTE PERTH

Charlotte grew up in Ipswich and trained as a nurse at Ipswich Hospital.

Now 29, she works at King’s College Hospital, London, looking after patients who are critically unwell and often require a ventilator – including coronavirus patients.

“The best feeling in the world is when you’ve helped a child get better and you see them go home to their family,” she said.

“It’s an absolute privilege to look after critically unwell children and their families and I can’t imagine ever doing any other job.

“Nursing isn’t just my job, it’s my passion and I’m lucky to be able to something I love so much.”

Charlotte Perth urged people to 'stay safe' in a hard-hitting post of social media. Picture: CHARLOTTE PERTHCharlotte Perth urged people to 'stay safe' in a hard-hitting post of social media. Picture: CHARLOTTE PERTH

Charlotte says she and her colleagues are “doing everything we possibly can” to fight Covid-19 on the frontline.

‘I couldn’t sit at home doing nothing’ - Donna Booton, Colchester Hospital

Many would have forgiven Donna Booton for wanting to put her feet up when she retired after 38 years working as a nurse and in senior NHS roles.

Yet when she saw an increase in demand due to the Covid-19 pandemic, she said: “I immediately knew that I should put my experience to good use and offer to help.”

Having retired in December as head of quality improvement for the East Suffolk and North Essex NHS Foundation Trust (ESNEFT), she has now returned to the wards as a site matron at Colchester Hospital.

Donna Booton recently returned to work at Colchester Hospital to help fight the coronavirus crisis. Picture: EAST SUFFOLK AND NORTH ESSEX NHS FOUNDATION TRUSTDonna Booton recently returned to work at Colchester Hospital to help fight the coronavirus crisis. Picture: EAST SUFFOLK AND NORTH ESSEX NHS FOUNDATION TRUST

“Once you are a nurse, it gets inside you,” she said. “I couldn’t just sit at home and do nothing knowing that my colleagues would be up against it. I had absolutely no reservations at all about going back.”

‘I want to help people’ - Rosina Chapman, University of Essex/Southend Hospital

University of Essex adult nursing student Rosina Chapman has bravely signed up to go to the frontline earlier than expected - to help the NHS cope with the coronavirus crisis.

“I know that I can use the skills I have developed over the past three years to help my colleagues in practice and, in turn, help people who have become unwell with the virus,” she said.

Described as an “exceptional student”, Rosina has been shortlisted for the Adult Student Nurse of the Year Award.

Third year Essex University nursing student Rosina Chapman has been shortlisted for the Adult Nursing Student of the Year Award in the Student Nursing Times Awards 2020. Picture: UNIVERSITY OF ESSEXThird year Essex University nursing student Rosina Chapman has been shortlisted for the Adult Nursing Student of the Year Award in the Student Nursing Times Awards 2020. Picture: UNIVERSITY OF ESSEX

She will be working in the acute respiratory unit at Southend Hospital, caring for Covid-19 patients. “I came into nursing for the same reason as many – I want to help people,” she said. I am looking forward to helping, that’s what nursing is all about. Nothing makes me feel more privileged than having someone trust you with their care – it’s the best job in the world.”

‘I have been welcomed here’ - Napoleon Manaog, West Suffolk Hospital

Napoleon Manaog, known as Nap, emigrated 6,700 miles from the Philippines to be a staff nurse on F1 Rainbow Ward at West Suffolk Hospital, which cares for children.

His career has already included working in some of the most challenging parts of the world, such as a paediatric nurse in Ethiopia. He has also worked in Afghanistan and Sierra Leone, the latter at the time of the Ebola outbreak.

West Suffolk Hospital says that: “The experiences Nap gained in the developing countries in which he has worked have given him unique insight into nursing during challenging times, which is standing him in good stead in this current Covid-19 crisis.”

Napoleon Manaog, a staff nurse on West Suffolk Hospital's Rainbow Ward for children. Picture: WSET SUFFOLK HOSPITAL NHS FOUNDATION TRUSTNapoleon Manaog, a staff nurse on West Suffolk Hospital's Rainbow Ward for children. Picture: WSET SUFFOLK HOSPITAL NHS FOUNDATION TRUST

Nap said: “I am sometimes homesick, and I do worry about my family at this time. I have been welcomed here and supported, people have confidence in me. Parents have respect for the nurses and confidence that we will be able to take care of their children.”

‘Nursing is a fantastic career’ - Paul Morris, James Paget University Hospital

Paul Morris took over as director of nursing at the James Paget University Hospital in Gorleston, which cares for many East Suffolk patients, in March - the very time the Covid-19 crisis started to strike.

Paul, from Eye, began his career at Ipswich Hospital. He completed his nurse training in 2002, before joining frontline teams in the Medical Assessment and Critical Care Units. He then moved to the hospital’s emergency department, where he was appointed lead nurse in 2014.

He later moved to the West Suffolk Hospital as senior matron, before being promoted to deputy chief nurse and head of patient safety in 2017.

James Paget Hospital's director of nursing Paul Morris. PHOTO: James Paget University Hospitals NHS Foundation TrustJames Paget Hospital's director of nursing Paul Morris. PHOTO: James Paget University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust

JPUH chief executive Anna Hills said Paul “brings a great deal of experience to the role” - while he describes nursing as a “fantastic career”.

‘Great sense of hope in working with young people’ - Paul Cathmoir, Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust (NSFT)

Mental health nurse Paul Cathmoir has been at the forefront of reducing patients’ risk during the Covid-19 crisis, for example by bringing in video chats.

“You always think hard before admitting a child to an inpatient unit, but we are thinking doubly and triply hard at the moment because of Covid-19,” said the matron for the Children, Families and Young People’s Care Group

“We are also starting to think about what support we need to put in place once the restrictions are lifted, as there will be a lot of people who have been traumatised by this experience and will need our help afterwards.

Paul Cathmoir works for the Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust. Picture: NORFOLK AND SUFFOLK NHS FOUNDATION TRUSTPaul Cathmoir works for the Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust. Picture: NORFOLK AND SUFFOLK NHS FOUNDATION TRUST

“I feel really lucky to have found a vocation and would 100% recommend nursing to anyone. It has been tough at times but I’m 30 years in and still going strong and don’t know what I’d do without it. I also find there’s a great sense of hope in working with children and young people, as you can really influence the whole of the rest of their lives.”

‘Nothing is too much trouble’ - Helen Ballam, Newmarket Community Hospital

Helen Ballam is ward manager at Newmarket Community Hospital, which is run by the West Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust. She has worked at the trust since 2011 and returned to practice as a nurse when she was aged over 50.

She says it was “one of the best decisions I’ve ever made” and tells people “it’s never too late” to work in nursing.

“In our community setting we take care of the person, not just the patient,” she added.

Helen Ballam, ward manager at Newmarket Community Hospital. Picture: WEST SUFFOLK HOSPITAL NHS FOUNDATION TRUSTHelen Ballam, ward manager at Newmarket Community Hospital. Picture: WEST SUFFOLK HOSPITAL NHS FOUNDATION TRUST

“We offer holistic recovery and rehabilitation, and nothing is too much trouble - I’m proud to say I’m part of it.”

‘You are never sure who you will be nursing’ - Ronnie Torkornoo, Woodlands, Ipswich

Ipswich mental health nurse Ronnie Torkornoo says the coronavirus pandemic is a “challenge for us - but one we’ll overcome”.

Ronnie works on Avocet Ward at the Woodlands in Ipswich, which usually provides care for adults with serious mental health conditions. He has delayed a move to a new role in Ipswich Hospital’s emergency department to help transformed Avocet into a designated Covid-19 cohort wards.

“The past two months have been very busy, as we have had to split the ward into separate areas for patients with confirmed coronavirus and those with suspected Covid-19,” said Mr Torkornoo, who became a nurse after leaving the army and a job in logistics.

Mental health nurse Ronnie Torkornoo works on Avocet Ward at the Woodlands, in Ipswich. Picture: NORFOLK AND SUFFOLK NHS FOUNDATION TRUSTMental health nurse Ronnie Torkornoo works on Avocet Ward at the Woodlands, in Ipswich. Picture: NORFOLK AND SUFFOLK NHS FOUNDATION TRUST

“Some patients have found it difficult spending time in isolation, but one massive positive has been the introduction of tablets, which has allowed them to video call their loved ones. You are never sure who you will be nursing and face something new every single day. The pandemic is a good example of that and is another challenge for us, but one we’ll overcome by working together.”

‘I hope a nurse would do this for me’ - Chelle Rodgers, Ipswich Hospital

Ward sister Chelle Rodgers was given an award a few months ago for who helping a dying woman get to her husband’s funeral.

The 44-year-old was nominated by colleagues on the Stradbroke Ward, at Ipswich Hospital, after she came into work early on the day of the funeral to make sure all the arrangements for the patient were in place.

She even organised for the patient to have oxygen, specialist transport and constant clinical observation to allow it to happen.

Chelle Rodgers Ipswich Hospital Picture: ESNEFTChelle Rodgers Ipswich Hospital Picture: ESNEFT

“From a personal perspective I would hope a nurse would do this for me should I ever require it one day,” she said.

However the modest critical care nurse, who has worked for the NHS for 10 years, said: “I truly believe what I did was not out of the ordinary and would like to think other nurses would have done this also.”

‘Kindness and compassion moved me’ - Kelly Dargan, West Suffolk Hospital

Kelly Dargan recently been promoted to ward sister at West Suffolk Hospital, having joined the hospital’s trust in 2017.

She said: “Throughout my training and nursing carer there have been many nurses I have worked with who have influenced me.

Kelly Dargan, ward sister at West Suffolk Hospital. Picture: WEST SUFFOLK HOSPITAL NHS FOUNDATION TRUSTKelly Dargan, ward sister at West Suffolk Hospital. Picture: WEST SUFFOLK HOSPITAL NHS FOUNDATION TRUST

“One nurse that stood out to me was a paediatric nurse at Addenbrooke’s, who cared for my sister when I was young.

“Although I cannot remember her name, her kindness and compassion moved me, and I realised what it means to truly be a great nurse.

“I thank her for giving me the push I needed to complete my nurse training and help me become the nurse I am today.”

‘Our patients are the most vulnerable in society’ - Maria Harris, Carlton Court, Lowestoft

As older people’s manager at Carlton Court, a mental health facility in Lowestoft, Maria Harris helps look after “the most vulnerable in society”.

They have been even more vulnerable during the Covid-19 pandemic, with a number of patients contracting the illness and two coronavirus sufferers at Carlton Court losing their lives.

Caring for them, staff like Ms Harris have constantly had to wear PPE - which she says “makes you feel exhausted, dehydrated and skin sore”.

The nurse of 30 years has also had to plan isolation areas for Covid-19 patients and take the “very difficult decision” to stop visitors, in order to shield patients.

However, she said of her colleagues on the Laurel Ward: “Despite their fears and concerns about keeping their own families safe and well, our incredible nursing team have continued to be positive.”


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