Return to nursing for COVID-19

I retired in May 2019 at what I thought was the conclusion of a 47 year nursing career. I also made the decision not to reregister in the following August when I was due to which was a significant moment as that truly marked the end of my nursing life.

As the COVID crisis evolved the government called for retired nurses to return to help the NHS and I duly received an email from the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC). I responded immediately but in truth I was unsure what I could offer as my ‘hands on’ experience was in the fairly distant past!

The process was interesting and very speedy which was amazing. I filled in an electronic form and had a telephone conversation to establish what I was prepared to offer. I then had a video conversation to establish my identity and what I may be able to do in my locality. Each person I spoke to during this process was surprised and touched that people were prepared to return!

I was put in touch with the Bucks Trust and Stoke Mandeville Hospital (SMH). I had last worked there in 1982 as a sister in theatres! It has certainly changed a bit!! I was now on the temporary COVID nursing register and able to work and was asked to attend a training day at the hospital.

An interesting experience! A step back in time for me as a ‘student’ but a step into a totally new era in nursing and medicine. As a number of staff members said – it is all totally different in these strange and difficult times.

I was clear that I wouldn’t suit ward work but I was asked if I would be interested in joining a team of PPE Safety Officers supporting the wards and staff with all issues associated with PPE and personal safety. As had been constantly reported by the press this was an issue so I was happy to be included and hopefully make a difference. I joined the team 2 days later and instantly learnt the term ‘Donning and Doffing’ – words to describe putting on and removing PPE. This would become my world for a while.

Working back in a uniform was a pleasure I hadn’t anticipated and it feels to be a lovely way to fully end my career. I work across the wards and departments checking staff have all they need, offering Donning and Doffing training and ensuring staff have been ‘Fit Tested’ for the protective masks used in certain procedures. All new to me!!

I have been accepted across the wards and many members of staff have actively thanked me for returning to help them – very humbling. I am constantly inspired by them all. They are professional, calm and adjusting to constant change. I have met some wonderful people and continue to feel proud of the profession.

As with many people I felt uncertain going into the hospital environment fearing a little for my personal safety but I can honestly say I have felt safe and reassured in all areas. I have to admit that I have joined at a calming point but to see what has been achieved is stunning.

I don’t suppose I will be doing this for long but I feel privileged to have contributed in a small way at such a time in our history.


Sue Varvel, May 2020