27 year old Jordan Leatherbarrow completed her Access to Nursing course at Barking & Dagenham College 5 years ago and went on to complete an adult nursing degree. She’s worked at the Queen’s Hospital in Romford since graduating in 2018 and, when the pandemic began, the Oncology and Haematology ward she worked on was converted to a Covid ward.
In her new role, Jordan is responsible for looking after Covid-19 patients who are very ill, but not in intensive care. Jordan explains “It’s a whole different type of nursing; we had to learn very quickly. It was a big adjustment.
“We were completely maxed out at the start of the pandemic and it continues to go up and down, but we are slowly getting through it.
“It’s been very challenging and also very sad; we have to try to put a smile on our faces, because we realise that we are the only faces that many of the patients can see. Very sadly, we are the last people that some of the patients see.
“My team are all amazingly supportive of one another and the public had provided the hospital with so many donations (hand creams, food, hot drinks etc.) which has helped us get through some of the tougher days!”
Jordan was also cheered by the delivery of a beautiful oil painting of herself wearing PPE, which was kindly painted for a free by an artist called Xiaobang Zhang.
A project called Portraits for NHS Heroes was started by artist Thomas Croft in April when he offered to paint a free portrait for the first NHS worker to reply. Since it started, professional artists from around the UK have been painting free portraits for NHS heroes. Jordan was delighted to be selected by the artist from Edinburgh and received her treasured oil painting last week.
She says: “It was such a kind thing for the artist to do and also all of the other artists that have taken part in the project. It has pride of place on my wall and will be cherished by me forever. This, and other kind acts by people, have been so important to my mental health over past two months.
“As it is mental it is Mental Health Awareness Week this week and the theme is kindness, I just wanted to say ‘thank you’ and to remind people of the positive effect that doing kind things can do.”
Jordan has a seven-year-old son and her partner is a police officer, so juggling the challenges of being key workers and managing childcare has been tough. However, there’s been a positive side to the situation for Jordan, “I suffer from quite bad anxiety and often worry about the little stuff. However this situation has required me to focus on the practical things, things like the fact that my partner and I have to make sure that we thoroughly clean ourselves and our clothes every time we return to our home after our shifts.
“Also, the challenge of juggling childcare has kept me busy and enabled me to focus on sorting out these things; somewhat oddly, this has actually eased my anxiety.”
Jordan’s proud mum is following in her Covid nurse daughter’s footstep by a studying an Access to Nursing course at the same college where her daughter studied.
Mum Amanda, who is 47, is doing an Access to Nursing course at Barking & Dagenham College and will be studying nursing at university this autumn. She is meant to be doing her exams, but due to the Coronavirus pandemic, Amanda, like many other people, is going to be graded based on her predicted grades.
Amanda says “As a single mum of three, I’ve done my best to bring up my children; looking after people comes naturally to me. I had children young and always knew I wanted to complete a degree once they were grown up. I failed my own education and that was something I have always regretted.
“I’ve found college very inspiring. All of my tutors have been brilliant, they don’t let you struggle, and they are very helpful. During the pandemic, all students have been offered zoom classes with one-to-ones, if needed.
“For me, it was about having confidence to keep going and not give up. My daughter Jordan is my biggest inspiration and, along with my college tutor Annie Woods, I wouldn’t be here today.”