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Laura Ivko – International Nurses Day

Laura Ivko – International Nurses Day

Date of release: 12 May 2021

A Senior Staff Nurse on New Cross Hospital’s Intensive Critical Care Unit (ICCU), Laura Ivko describes the past year as “without a doubt, the most challenging period of [her] nursing career.”

Laura started off her working life as a Carer in a Wolverhampton nursing home; here she saw many of her colleagues go on to do their nursing qualification and move into senior positions that offered great opportunities to progress. This then inspired  her take the plunge and enrol on the training course herself.

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On completing her training in 1993, back when nurses trained directly on the New Cross site, Laura jumped straight into critical care services and never looked back. The 54-year-old explains: “I joined ICCU on day one and never left!

“The first few months were overwhelming; I would often come home and feel anxious about the vast amount of information to absorb and the technical skills I needed to learn, but I was quickly able to find my feet thanks to the support given by my colleagues. And having been on the unit nearly 30 years, I’m now the one teaching and guiding new starters; it’s really nice being able to give back in that way.”

A varied area of nursing, ICCU nurses can be presented with a number of different cases – from patients who need to be supported in their recovery following a major operation, needing to be safely brought out of sedation and weaned off a ventilator, to those who are experiencing different degrees of organ failure.

“It’s a high-pressure environment where patients arrive and they need rapid intervention,” said Laura, who lives in Perton. “You have to be knowledgeable about the equipment supporting your patient, alongside the drugs required. You also need to act as an advocate when they are sedated and that in itself is a great responsibility.

“It’s a fascinating area to work in. There’s always new equipment and new treatments which enable you to develop your skillset. Many people expect it to be like Holby City with lots of alarms and people running around, but the truth if you have to remain calm for the sake of your patients. Even in the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic, where we faced extraordinary demand, it was important not to panic.”

And with an increased number of patients came the need for more staff on the unit – this was when staff from other areas of the Trust, including the military, were brought in to help with service delivery.

“Understandably many of the redeployed staff didn’t have the same intravenous or drug experience as an ICCU nurse and it was a learning curve for them. I remember meeting one nurse who was incredibly nervous about the transition and the tasks at hand, but I told her “If you can write the correct observations, if you can give mouth care, eye care, if you can turn the patients etc. – this will be a massive help!”

“It took great dedication of those coming from areas such as ophthalmology and dental who weren’t used to this type of nursing. It was a pleasure to guide them and equally to learn from them.”

Reflecting on the COVID-19 pandemic, the mum-of-two admits the past year has “topped everything” she’s ever experienced – in all senses of the phrase.

“Working in critical care you do expect to be dealing with death at some point, but it’s been a completely different level with COVID-19 and it’s been upsetting at times. We are still human at the end of the day, but the ICCU team have stuck together and kept on going as best we can. We really are one big family.

“Despite the tragedies there have also been moments of great hope throughout the pandemic, such as seeing the COVID-19 survivors leave the unit after being so unwell. The memories of clapping them on their way out, and the messages and letters of thanks, will stay with me for a long time.”

When asked what International Nurses Day meant to her she replied: “It’s a day to recognise the highly skilled and varied profession that is nursing.

“A lot of people think of nurses in the old-fashioned terms, mostly giving bed baths and medication, but it’s highly complex in terms of the expertise required.

“Today is a chance to say thank you to both nurses and to their colleagues who have worked tremendously hard this past year. Thank you to the theatre staff, doctors, support staff and so on for their amazing support on ICCU, it’s been a group effort to adapt and overcome all obstacles.

“I’m so proud to be a nurse and to have played my part in the NHS’ COVID-19 response.”

A Teaching Trust of the University of Birmingham