‘There were times I had to step outside to hide my tears, take deep breaths and then carry on’

Áine Quigley, a nursing-home manager, is now quarantining with her family in Co Mayo

Áine Quigley is deputy manager of a nursing home in the south of England. She is from Blacksod, Co Mayo and is currently quarantining in  self-contained accommodation at her mother and father’s B&B, Leim Siar

Áine Quigley is deputy manager of a nursing home in the south of England. She is from Blacksod, Co Mayo and is currently quarantining in self-contained accommodation at her mother and father’s B&B, Leim Siar

 

Áine Quigley is from Blacksod, Co Mayo. She moved to Kent, in England, in 2011 to study for a BSc in adult nursing at Christchurch University in Canterbury. She is now a deputy manager and clinical lead in a nursing home. She has just returned to Ireland and is quarantining in Co Mayo

Due to the opportunities to progress in my career, I stayed in the UK after I qualified as a nurse in 2014. I have worked in various roles in gynaecology, practice nursing and as an ophthalmic scrub nurse, but just prior to the pandemic I started a new role as a deputy manager and clinical lead in a nursing home. I was also studying a second BSc in perioperative practice, which is care before and after surgery, through the University of Derby whilst I was working. My studies have now been put on hold until September to allow me to focus on my nursing duties.

I work in a large 57-bed home with a big team of dedicated professionals who care for residents of varying needs. Starting my new role just weeks prior to lockdown has been the biggest challenge of my career. I had to get to grips with the running of the home, learn about the residents and their needs, the staff and much more when the pandemic hit and lockdown commenced.

I had to decide if I would return home to Ireland and give up my new job, house and life in England, or stay and fight Covid-19 here. I decided to stay, as going home would have only have put my family at risk.

We were well prepared in the home in terms of PPE. We couldn’t have asked for more and never ran short of anything. Although we were lucky in this regard, it was stressful and I moved into the home for a short time, as driving home after a shift was just too tiring. As we had staff on isolation (when testing wasn’t available), agency nurses would arrive for shifts, but then walk out once they learned there were suspected/confirmed cases in the home. This meant I worked on the floor. At times, I was the only nurse for all of the residents.

With the exhaustion from working so much and the fear of the unknown, coupled with missing and worrying about my family, there were times I had to step outside to hide my tears, take deep breaths and then carry on. After all, this is what I have trained to do, and the staff and residents needed a strong clinical lead during a time of such uncertainty and fear.

With the support of an amazing team, we worked hard together to protect the residents. Our recovery rate has been outstanding. We successfully saved many lives. I am incredibly proud of the team I helped lead.

Throughout the lockdown, visits were arranged for family via windows and gardens and purpose-built “sheds”, so residents did not suffer the effects of isolation. With the British government announcing that nursing homes can open their doors once again after judging the local situation, we face new challenges about how we manage those risks and new fears of a second spike. I’m proud to say that the home I work in has been Covid-19 negative for a considerable time now, and we hope we can maintain this.

I am so happy to say that I am writing this from the ferry on my way home to see my family after five long months. I have gained a new outlook on life as many others have, and this experience has hopefully taught everyone that the important things in life are health, family and friends, and that nothing else matters.

I will do my 14 days of quarantine in my family home, a B&B called Leim Siar in Blacksod. The B&B will reopen soon with self-catering, self-contained units. There are multiple self-contained apartments here which are ideal for Covid-19 safe holidays, as they are all non- contact.

My gorgeous mum’s B&B will no longer be the same, but she’s adapting to this new life like a young woman. She’s great. Both mum and dad have had to isolate themselves for months due to their health. They are very active people, and mum made such a successful business with her B&B, winning many awards. She is passionate about the business, and I really hope it gets back on its feet.

There is no quarantine when I return to Britain. Also we have test kits at the home for all staff and residents, so I can test the moment I get back to make sure I am safe to return to work. I also tested just prior to leaving.

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