Managing crises through mobilisation

Ebola suit wash 2 people

15 / 3 / 2016 10am

Helen Trudgeon has been a Health Protection Nurse for Public Health England (PHE) since 2015 and is also a Flight Lieutenant with the RAF reserves. In this blog, Helen talks about her deployment to Sierra Leone to help deal with the outbreak of Ebola.

As an infectious diseases nurse, I joined the RAF so I could take on new challenges. During my time as a reservist I’ve undertaken aeromedical evacuations, completed military and clinical courses and exercises, attended conferences and been on adventure training. However, the highlight of my military career was when I was deployed to Sierra Leone in April and June 2015 on the Ebola response where I worked in a military-run treatment unit. The best thing about being involved in the response was feeling like I made a positive difference and I also enjoyed putting my clinical skills to use.

In my civilian career, I have delivered training many times. A highlight of my time in West Africa was applying that experience when coordinating a team to provide infection control training to staff at a local hospital.

My work at the specialist treatment unit involved ensuring our staff remained as safe as possible at all times. I had to ensure everyone wore (and removed) their personal protective equipment correctly and that medical equipment was safely disposed of and/or decontaminated.

Working on the Ebola response boosted my confidence in making decisions when responding to other types of outbreaks and infectious disease cases here in the UK. I work as a Health Protection Nurse for Public Health England (PHE) so many of my colleagues were involved in the UK Ebola response. When I returned, I was able to provide insights into the environment in West Africa as I was the only member of the local team to have encountered an Ebola case. My involvement in the response also gave me knowledge of the challenges associated with diagnosing and treating Ebola.

The RAF financially compensates employers when reservists deploy. That meant that an agency nurse who was working at PHE before I left was able to stay on and cover my time on the Ebola response. As a result, the impact on my colleagues was minimal and the skills I brought back were invaluable for our work in keeping the English public safe from Ebola.

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