With Christmas and New Year fast approaching, COVID-19 remains a hot topic of conversation.
Terms such as ‘tiers,’ ‘bubbles’ and ‘social distancing’ have become part and parcel of the run-up to the festive period this year, as families plan how to spend time with their loved ones in a safe environment.
But what should we be doing to protect those around us, and ourselves, from COVID-19? And how do our NHS staff feel as they enter the busiest period of the year?
Nicki Credland is Head of Department of Paramedical, Perioperative and Advanced Practice at the University of Hull. Her clinical background is in intensive care and critical care outreach.
Outside of her work at the University, Nicki is Chair of the British Association of Critical Care Nurses (BACCN).
In April, Nicki was appointed to lead vital COVID-19 training at Harrogate’s NHS Nightingale Hospital, as she assumed the position of Lead Critical Care Nurse Educator.
The role has seen Nicki play a crucial role in the development and delivery of training for hundreds of critical care nurses responding to COVID-19.
Nicki was also earlier this year appointed as a specialist advisor to NHS England, on the subject of critical care nursing.
She will advise on new national policies and guidelines drawn up across a wide range of areas, from infection control and end-of-life care, to hospital visiting hours.
Here, Nicki answers some of biggest questions on COVID-19 and Christmas:
What’s the single most important piece of advice you could give to people ahead of Christmas this year?
“Take some time to relax and look after yourself. This year has been - and continues to be - very difficult and stressful for many.
“Taking time out to self-care is very important for our own mental health.”
How important is it that people continue to follow the guidelines and act responsibly in the coming weeks?
“Extremely important. Just because we can does not always mean that we should. Think about the risks involved in groups of people getting together.
“It would be devastating to pass the virus onto a loved one who became critically ill when we are currently seeing the roll-out of a vaccine.
“I would protect the health of my family above any Christmas get together. We can make up for it later in the year.”
How are NHS staff feeling, as we enter what is already an incredibly demanding and busy time for health workers?
“It is no exaggeration to say that staff are exhausted, stressed, physically and mentally tired.
“They are human beings too with families that they love and miss and want to protect. Many will be giving up their Christmas to look after our loved ones.
“Show your respect to them by behaving responsibly. This is the best Christmas present you could give.”
Are you worried about the five-day lifting of restrictions and the impact it could have on infection rates?
“Yes, very much so. The lifting of restrictions we are due to see over the Christmas period brings with it significant risk, and we are expecting a further rise in cases in January because of this relaxation.”
What advice would you give to people who are visiting loved ones and family this Christmas?
“For me it is about asking myself what risk am I prepared to take.
“I could not live with myself if one of my family caught COVID-19 and became critically ill just so we could eat Christmas dinner together. It is too high a price to pay.
“My advice would be to ask yourself what risk are you happy to accept.”
What precautions can you take to safely see people this Christmas and avoid contributing to infection rates rising?
“Protect your loved ones as much as possible. Keep socially distanced as much as possible. Wash your hands and work surfaces frequently. Keep indoor spaces well ventilated. Don't be complacent.
“COVID does not know it's Christmas!”
How long will we feel the impact of Coronavirus on our lives?
“I think we will feel the effects of this pandemic for many months and indeed years to come. The psychological impact on staff and patients, the economic impact and the impact in general of us all trying to get back to some sense of normality.”
Are there lessons to be learned from this pandemic?
As a critical care nurse, I hope that we see a greater understanding of critical care, the technicality of the environment and the requirement for expert highly-trained nurses and doctors. I also think we need to respect those key workers who are often on a low wage but have been the backbone of this country throughout this pandemic.