Going beyond the call of duty: Courageous care during pandemic saw Kent care worker shortlisted as ‘Covid Hero’ in prestigious sector awards
The past 18 months have been unprecedented, unpredictable and unusual. Every sector across every country has been impacted in some way by the global coronavirus pandemic; the majority detrimentally. Indeed, COVID-19 is still ongoing and will be with us for the foreseeable future in some capacity, but the significant damage was done during the height of the pandemic last spring and summer. No more so than in the care sector.
Hengist Field Care Centre, a care home offering nursing, specialist dementia care, short term rehabilitation and respite stays, in Sittingbourne, Kent, was one of over 17,000 care homes in the UK to suddenly be faced with the challenges and pressures of keeping its residents safe from the virus.
Social care workers up and down the country were consequently and consistently put in extremely difficult situations to ensure the safety of those they care for on a daily basis; some going above and beyond the call of duty to protect ‘their family’. One of those people was May Chowdhury, a 37-year-old home trainer at Hengist Field who, even pre-pandemic, was hailed by colleagues and residents as being passionate, dedicated and supportive to the home’s residents and staff alike. When the pandemic spread across the country, many people were naturally scared about how to deal with such an extraordinary event. May, however, undeterred in her unwavering support for those in her care, only become galvanised by the threat of the virus.
Following the national lockdown and the strict infection control measures Hengist Field put in place, which included restricting access for non-essential visitors and staff, while adhering to the latest Government guidelines, May made a bold and selfless decision. The mother of two permanently moved into the home for two weeks during the very height of the pandemic. Describing the experience, May said: “It was an extremely difficult time, especially from an emotional standpoint. Physically, you can push yourself but emotionally it was tough because I knew I couldn’t go home to my family during what was a very scary time for everyone in and outside the home.”
The highly valued and likeable home trainer, however, does not regret the decision and would do it again tomorrow without hesitation. “I loved being with the residents 24/7 during the time I lived in the home. They are, after all, my second family,” she said. “Obviously, I missed my children and husband, but when you’re working and tasked with the role of protecting the lives of those in your care when they need you more than ever before, you completely focus on the job at hand.”
May and her valiant team did just that, entertaining the residents throughout the prolonged period of isolation through music and dancing, cooking, singing competitions, movies, reminiscing over photos and other activities. Ultimately, May provided the residents with strength during times of uncertainty and was seen as a beacon of hope for everyone at the Sittingbourne home.
It was this bravery and selflessness in the face of adversity that saw May shortlisted for the Social Care Covid Hero Award in the prestigious Great British Care Awards 2021.
Martin Barrett, Managing Director of Nellsar, the family-run care group that runs Hengist Field, describes May as someone who always has a massive smile on her face, giving off an aura of positivity and happiness that brings joy to all those around her. He added that her professionalism cannot be understated and that whenever there is an event unfolding at the home, good or bad, you can be sure she will be there and ready to help in any way she can.
A close colleague of May also praised her dedication to her role. “May is always cheerful and wanting to help with absolutely anything. If she sees you need a hand or are struggling, she’ll straight away offer to help. She has such a caring, pleasant nature; she is a joy to work with.” While May’s deputy manager said: “At an individual level, May brightens up the day. At a service level, she ensures delivery of a high-quality service, going above and beyond when needed. May embodies the organisational values and behaviours; she seeks to deliver excellence, sees tasks through, and helps support and develop others during inductions and training. She notices when the team needs a boost and acts upon it with her unstinting enthusiasm. She is highly professional, makes suggestions for improvement, but never forgets the importance of fun.”
When asked what she thought of May, one Hengist Field resident said: “She is kind, patient and helpful. She’s very efficient in the work that she does.” These kind and self-sacrificing attributes, all echoed by her colleagues and residents’ family members, make May such a crucial part of the Hengist Field team.
Upon hearing of the nomination and reflecting on the past 18 months, May concluded: “I’m just happy I played my part in protecting our residents. It’s nothing special – I would have felt guilty if I didn’t do my duty. It’s in my nature to care.”
May Chowdhury is a home trainer worker at Hengist Field Care Centre in Sittingbourne, Kent. The home, which offers care for those who need nursing, specialist dementia care, short term rehabilitation or respite stays, is part of Nellsar, a family-run group of 13 Care Homes throughout Kent, Surrey and Essex. Built on strong foundations, Nellsar has worked hard to build the trusted reputation of its Homes and prides itself on being approachable, accountable and empathic in their relationships with the families they support.