Helping ‘shielded’ staff to continue to contribute

Case study: Jessie Voon, Deputy Sister, Emergency Department, Norfolk and Norwich University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (NNUHFT).

Background to learning

It is well recognised that significant numbers of nurses are themselves potentially clinically vulnerable from COVID-19. As with others in the clinically vulnerable population, these colleagues have been required to ‘shield’ during the pandemic.

Nursing colleagues at NNUHFT, who were shielding, were eager to continue to contribute their vast experience to the different components of service delivery. They also felt that continuing to ‘play their part’ in the team improved their own wellbeing.

The organisation recognises the value of shielded team members and agreed that anything that could be done to ensure that they could still contribute was extremely helpful.

Learning and advice to be shared

NNUHFT identified non-clinical activities that could suit colleagues working from home:

  • Supporting incident reviews – shielded colleagues were able to progress investigative work on incidents that were awaiting review.
  • Developing rotas – this was very helpful for other colleagues in being able to plan well ahead and understand when their very necessary rest times would be.
  • Quality audits – supporting the review of care against relevant standards and assessing where improvements can be made.

In discussing opportunities to support ‘shielded’ colleagues, fellow council members identified further helpful approaches including:

  • Buddying-up on tasks to gain experience.
  • Focusing on personal development – reflecting on practice and considering career development.
  • Identifying opportunities and the skills needed to support the NHS Long Term Plan and the COVID-19 recovery.

Members also highlighted the importance of:

  • IT arrangements – prioritising device and account activation to avoid potential delays to working remotely.
  • Thinking creatively to identify suitable remote work, for example, supporting improvement projects using easily accessible data and information.
  • Planning in advance to support remote working.
  • Mapping skills and experience of those shielding to understand how organisations might support any relevant training and redeployment in response to future COVID-19 surges.
  • Significant opportunity for shielded colleagues to be part of the wellbeing response for the wider professional group.

Would it be beneficial to retain these changes?

Council members agreed that continued active engagement of ‘shielded’ colleagues could support rapid deployment of a valuable staffing resource for the management of future surges.

They have suggested that beyond COVID-19 the approaches developed to support shielded colleagues might:

  • Enable creative remote working adjustments and support phased returns to work, for example, after extended sickness absence.
  • Support compliance with mandatory training and support an easier revalidation experience.
  • Connect nurses at the point of care with service improvement/innovation and research opportunities.

For further details on this case study or to connect with Jessie, please email