March 8th is International Women’s Day 2021, and NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde celebrate the achievements of all women during the coronavirus pandemic.
We spoke to five women in leadership about what they do at NHSGGC and what International Women’s Day means to them.
WHO ARE YOU AND WHAT DO YOU DO?
ANTONIA HO: I am an infectious disease consultant, and a Clinical Senior Lecturer at the MRC-University of Centre for Virus Research. My clinical work is split between NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde and NHS Lanarkshire.
DENISE WILKINSON: I am Lead Nurse of the Emergency Department at Queen Elizabeth University Hospital (QEUH) and the Minor Injuries Unit at the New Victoria Infirmary.
KATE MURRAY: I am the Head of Linen and Catering Services, for NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde. I work at our Laundry Building in Hillington, Glasgow.
LINDA DE CAESTECKER: I am Director of Public Health for NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde.
MARGARET O’ROURKE: I am Clinical Service Manager and Lead Nurse at the Vale of Leven General Hospital.
HOW HAS CORONAVIRUS CHANGED WHAT YOU DO?
ANTONIA HO: I oversee recruitment in Scotland for the ISARIC 4C study, the largest study of hospitalised COVID-19 patients in the UK. I am also the local principal investigator for a national study that looks at the risk of reinfection and vaccine effectiveness in healthcare workers.
I am also running COVID-19 studies in Malawi, comparing exposure between healthcare workers and community members.
DENISE WILKINSON: We have created different pathways to keep patients and staff safe. When patients arrive at hospital, they meet a screening nurse. The screening nurse will ask them if they have had any contact with anyone with coronavirus, or if they have symptoms themselves.
KATE MURRAY: Before coronavirus, 20% of what the Laundry team, and our machines, handled was infected linen. Now it is around 80%. If there is even one coronavirus case or suspected case, the whole ward’s linen is treated as infectious.
We have seen an increase in the use of scrub suits. The junior doctors used to wear their own clothes; we now issue them scrub suits. The other biggest increase is patients’ gowns.
In catering, we implemented our Business Continuity Plan early on. We did not know what impact the virus would have on staffing levels, or whether catering supplies would be affected.
LINDA DE CAESTECKER: We are a small team, and we are busy. That is the same for many people working in NHSGGC. Usually, public health relies on evidence which is beyond reasonable doubt. In a pandemic, you do not have time necessarily to generate evidence to that degree of certainty. We must respond to new policies quickly.
WHAT MOTIVATES YOU?
ANTONIA HO: I have been contacted by trainees who want to do research, because they have seen the importance of epidemiological research.
That was how I was inspired to be an epidemiologist. I was a junior doctor during the 2009 H1N1 (swine flu) pandemic, when the first case in Europe was admitted to Monklands Hospital.
DENISE WILKINSON: Supporting our staff, while we have been working hard, inspires me to do the best I can. People doing their routine jobs and getting on with life shows you how to adapt to the current climate.
You have seen the reaction of staff, ensuring patients are safe. Seeing what the NHS are doing, I want to be a part of that.
KATE MURRAY: I am motivated by seeing everything running well and being dispatched to our hospital sites. Then, I know we have done a good job!
Our roles have changed, but we are doing all we can. We have had no coronavirus outbreaks at the Laundry or in either of our Cook Freeze Production Units during the pandemic. Good communication, social distancing and following the rules are key to controlling this virus and getting back to some normality.
LINDA DE CAESTECKER: I want to see the health of Scotland, UK, and Greater Glasgow and Clyde improve. Greater Glasgow and Clyde has the greatest health needs in the country. We have the widest disparities between the richest and the poorest. Seeing the most vulnerable people in our population improve their health motivates me.
MARGARET O’ROURKE: I am passionate about my leadership role at the Vale of Level Hospital. I have great respect for the team and their commitment to provide service to our local population.
I have been privileged to lead service development to further improve our patient experience and care.
WHY IS IWD IMPORTANT WITHIN THE NHS?
ANTONIA HO: We need role models. There are more female consultants now, but still few in leadership roles. It is similar in the University sector. We are trying to bring more women into science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM).
One of the first female consultants I worked with, Dr Jackie Taylor, is now President of the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow.
DENISE WILKINSON: We have women, including Frances McLinden MBA, Director South Services, and Jane Grant, Chief Executive, in leadership roles within NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde.
When I started working for the NHS, I never thought I would become a Lead Nurse. There are many women in leadership roles within the NHS and many I have worked with in theatre inspire me
KATE MURRAY: I started working for NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde in 1984, and there are many more women in leadership roles than there have been before. The experience and opportunities I have had helps me to achieve results.
I report to Mary Anne Kane, the Associate Director of Facilities. When I started, I would never have seen myself in the position I am in now.
LINDA DE CAESTECKER: A few years ago, I spent a year working for an international charity, FIGO. FIGO focus on woman and children’s reproductive rights, particularly in Africa and Asia. It was obvious that women in those societies were not equal, though they were raising families and caring for households.
There are issues of gender inequality and, in wider society, there is inequality in pay. We know there is unacceptable gender-based violence that we must address.
MARGARET O’ROURKE: International Women’s Day is a celebration about being a mum – my biggest achievement – and recognition of all the women who aspire to be leaders in their profession whilst juggling family life, work, and study.
Pictured top: Denise Wilkinson at QEUH and left Linda De Caestecker.