Royal Free ITU nurse who swapped the Caribbean for a Covid ward
- Credit: Royal Free NHS Trust
A remarkable nurse who qualified at the Royal Free in 1990 swapped the Caribbean island of Grenada for Hampstead's Covid wards.
After a Christmas Zoom call with old colleagues still at the hospital, Jennifer Solomon felt compelled to jump on a plane and travel more than 4,000 miles to return to work at a hospital in the midst of a second surge of Covid-19 cases.
She said: “I was chatting to ‘the girls’ I qualified with at the Royal Free Hospital over Christmas on Zoom like everyone does now and it was quite emotional hearing their stories about the pandemic.
"There were no cases in Grenada and I started to think I might have to come back to help.
"It was a physical reaction – I felt pulled back. Happily my children also gave me their blessing – my daughter has just started nursing school and told me: 'Go for it!'
“Next thing I knew Helen had put me in touch with HR at the Royal Free Hospital who then moved heaven and earth to help me get back. I was worried that maybe I’d be too old or unskilled but no one ever made me feel like that.”
Jennifer, 53, left the Royal Free in the 1990s to travel - spending time working on yachts - before settling in Grenada where her husband runs a hotel.
But she kept her nursing registration - and even helped to set up a nursing programme in Grenada - before chatting to old friends including the Royal Free's Dr Helen Jones, who is head of research nursing.
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Before she knew it (after self-isolating) Jennifer was back on the intensive care (ITU) wards as a support nurse.
She said she was pleased to have returned to help lessen the burden on her colleagues, adding: "Of course I was a bit homesick for my family but I know I made the right decision. I am proud that I came to help. Nursing is a fraternity – we stick together. Frankly I couldn’t have looked myself in the mirror if I’d just poured another G&T and sat by the pool!"
The Ham&High last week revealed that medical staff at the Royal Free have raised concerns about staff burnout and patient safety in intensive care wards, with staff and union reps meeting with senior management. The hospital said it has listed to feedback and put in place support.