Former auxiliary nurse focused on NHS return in coronavirus efforts
A former auxiliary nurse has said she would never be able to forgive herself if she did not return to help the NHS at its time of need.
Kathryn Owen, 42, from Co Down, is among thousands of health workers who have volunteered to come back to bolster numbers on the front line fighting coronavirus.
More than 14,000 people have signed up to Northern Ireland’s health and social care workforce ahead of the expected surge of Covid-19 patients in the coming days.
The total number of people who have died in the region with coronavirus had reached 48 by Friday.
Ms Owen said she volunteered before the main drive as she saw the need approaching.
She was a dental nurse before becoming a medic in the RAF.
Upon leaving the RAF, she became an auxiliary nurse before returning to full-time education and is currently pursuing a PhD in cardiology at Ulster University as well as last year becoming a councillor for the Democratic Unionist Party.
She said that will be put on the backburner during the Covid-19 efforts.
Her party leader and First Minister Arlene Foster is among those who have congratulated her for putting herself forward.
“The decision itself really wasn’t a difficult decision, it was a case of this is going to happen, where are the forms?” she told the PA news agency.
“That side of things was like putting on a seatbelt, but it’s been hard on my family, the difficult bit has been seeing how worried they are.
“I hope other people do it as well, and that’s why I am talking about it, I want other people to do the same thing as well.”
Ms Owen said she is due to start next week at one of Northern Ireland’s Covid-19 centres and that news of a huge consignment of personal protective equipment coming to Northern Ireland was very welcome.
She admitted feeling scared but said she would never be able to forgive herself if she did not step forward to help.
“The NHS is a big family, there is no way in this planet I was going to let my colleagues shoulder this, I would never be able to forgive myself,” she said.
“I’m delighted about the PPE because I know it was a real worry, especially for some of my friends in Belfast Trust, it’s taken away a little bit of the anxiety, and having those tests will be really important.
“I am scared, I’m not going to pretend I’m some kind of invincible superwoman, I am scared but you just have to put that to the back of your mind and what will be will be.”
Ms Owen added how she is feeling now is similar to her military days before a deployment.
“You feel exactly the same, sitting in the airport waiting on the planes to take you overseas, getting combat ready, refreshers in training, the adrenaline and not knowing what I’m walking into.”