AN ORTHOPAEDIC theatre nurse who cried when seconded to a critical care unit at the height of the pandemic now believes the move was “fate”.

Hayley Baldwin had worked as a theatre nurse at Abergele’s orthopaedic unit for 11 years when Covid forced its temporary closure last year.

The mum-of-two, and many of her team, were sent to Ysbyty Glan Clwyd, Bodelwyddan, to “learn the basics” about caring for patients infected with the novel coronavirus.

It was all hands on deck for staff across the health board as the pandemic forced the shut down of services and a massive redeployment of manpower to fight the rising wave of infection.

However for Hayley, whose job had been to make sure surgeons received the right instruments during knee replacements and hip operations, the thought of looking after critically ill Covid patients left her feeling “petrified”.

She said: “I had been in theatre recovery but I had never been in ITU or the High Dependency Unit (HDU).

“We basically went through how ventilators worked and I was crying when I came out of the session. I didn’t want to come to ITU - this is where the poorliest of the poorly patients come.

“I was terrified because I didn’t know what intensive care involved and I’d never had the responsibility of looking after a patient and keeping them alive.”


Ysbyty Glan Clwyd Hospital, Bodelwyddan.

Ysbyty Glan Clwyd Hospital, Bodelwyddan.


Hayley had to get used to the pressure of ITU.

There were six or seven nurses to each ventilated patient and Hayley feared she wouldn’t learn anything as a small cog in such a large team but as the pandemic became more serious and more patients needed critical care, Hayley soon found she was upskilling at a fast pace.

She added: “Initially we were here to help the ITU nurses but as it got busier we were able to take level three patients on ventilators and level two patients who needed CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure) or nasal high flow oxygen but still able to talk.

“That’s why I got more involved because I was able to look after those patients and the more I got involved the more I was enjoying it. I learned something on every single shift.The number of poorly people we saw was awful but there was a lot of support and it helped knowing we were all going through the same thing - it’s a lovely team to work for.”

One unexpected bonus was the shift patterns, working three or four long days or nights a week, gave her more time with her sons aged six and 10 years old.

“I feel more fulfilled career-wise," she said.

"Now I’m the nurse looking after that patient with 10 or 11 infusions and I know how to deal with it. Ventilators are becoming easy to understand and it is scary but the more involved you get the better your learning outcomes are going to be.

“You have to embrace it for what it is, just go with an open mind and be willing to learn. I surprised myself to be honest.

“I would never have thought of ITU had I not been thrown in at the deep end. It’s kind of like fate really.”

Karen Carter, ITU sister, said: “The change was dramatic for Hayley and it lifted the spirit on the unit to see her take to the job in the way she did. It made us feel like we had done something right and things like that gave us hope during the really hard times.”

Dr Andy Foulkes, Ysbyty Glan Clwyd’s clinical director of surgery, anaesthesia and critical care, said: "Many staff coming to help understandably had fears but came anyway and in doing so took part in work they had never been exposed to before.

“It reflects on all our staff the atmosphere Hayley found, even in the busiest times of the pandemic, was one which made her look again at her career and decide she wanted to stay.

"We look forward to working with her for a long time to come."