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Nursing Stars Q&A: Anthony Johnson

We are profiling amazing practice and community nurses, and midwives, during the Covid-19 pandemic as part of our Nursing Stars campaign with New NHS Alliance – and here is Anthony Johnson.

What is your usual role?

I am health visitor in Tower Hamlets and the lead organiser for Nurses United, a grassroots organisation for nurses by nurses.

What work have you been doing during the Covid-19 outbreak? 

It seems lots of nurses are not working in the same position during the pandemic. That’s the same for me. I have been working in an entirely different field, entirely different service and not seeing any of the patients I used to see.

Personal protective equipment makes the new role even more complex, and I’ve had to learn new skills and new systems. Colleagues who have stayed in health visiting have said that lots of staff have been redeployed.

As lead organiser of Nurses United, the priorities during the pandemic have been about firefighting and doing what we can to help nurses. There’s so much going on, but there’s always been an urgency with dealing with problems with the NHS. The number of issues – before Covid-19 and during Covid-19 – justifies the existence of Nurses United. 

Why would you say you are a Covid-19 Nursing Star?

I’m proud that Nurses United were one of the first ones to think that PPE was going to be an issue and come up with a process to monitor that. I’m proud that people can get equipment through us. I’m proud that when it seemed like the government wasn’t going to monitor stuff about healthcare workers’ deaths, we made sure people weren’t forgottem.

In a nursing sense, I’m proud of the pandemic just shows how important we are. We’re still in a situation where lots of us feel really undervalued and in a precarious predicament. Despite that, nurses still stepped up and met the challenge. We’re a caring profession because we care.

What have you learnt from the experience of working during Covid-19?  

There’s something I used to say to my student nurses. People think that having influence, leadership and power is a longer term thing and only nursing directors have power and influence. I hope Nurses United shows that everyone is able to be a difference. If we valued and trusted frontline nurses to make decisions, they’d smash it and meet the challenge. Nurses have proved they can step up.

How do you think Covid-19 will impact the way you work in the future?

I think there will be an argument that we should move into having more remote treatment. But I don’t think you can replace that kind of patient contact.  I think one of the things that should change and hopefully will is having more nurses as leaders.