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Nicola Dean - Matron

Lockdown has prompted many of us to seek new ways to enjoy ourselves and cope with the restrictions on human contact.

Nicola Dean, a matron at Chailey Clinical Services, has perhaps gone a little further than most.

She’s joined forces with a friend to buy half a racehorse.

Nicola has yet to see her equine purchase in the flesh and has had to make do with photographs and videos instead.

But she will doubtless be cheering on her horse at one of the country’s racecourses once the restrictions on public gatherings of this type are eased.

It is likely to be a welcome outlet for her emotions following what has proven to be an exceptionally trying 12 months.

“The past year has proven to be incredibly challenging as we have been trying to protect the health and wellbeing of children and young adults with complex and fluctuating healthcare needs,” says Nicola.

“Working in partnership with Chailey Heritage Foundation has also had its challenges, especially where local and government guidance has given differing opinions around what is required.”

She cites personal protective equipment, or PPE, as an example.

“The demands on my role have been changeable, with often short timeframes in the initial period of COVID-19 lockdown to provide data/information, which was challenging,” Nicola explains.

“I feel we were incredibly lucky that we did not see a huge number of staff on sick leave at the same time.

“We were also lucky that only a small percentage of the children and young adults contracted COVID-19 and that all of them were successfully managed without the need for hospital admission.”

Nicola, who has worked for the Trust for two-and-a-half years, says guidance about visiting and keeping the children and young adults safe “has also been difficult”.

Families who rely on the services to get breaks from their caring duties have not necessarily had access to these services during the pandemic.

This has meant they have had to take sole responsibility for the care and management of their children 24-hours a day, seven days a week.

How has Nicola coped with the added pressures of work under COVID-19?

“I try very hard to keep work separate and not to deal with work situations when I am at home (with the exception of the planned episodes of being on-call for telephone advice),” she says.

“Even though I was not able to visit my family on the family farm, I have kept in touch via telephone at least every other day, so I have had family to take my mind off work and was able to share the joys of new-born lambs in March and April 2020.”

She also started doing more diamond art craft on her days off and, of course, has invested in a racehorse.

“Knowing that I am making a positive difference to the experiences of the children and young people at Chailey keeps me going,” says Nicola.

“It is sometimes very difficult, but it is lovely to see them enjoying themselves with staff despite the limitations."

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