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A day in the life of an intensive care unit nurse at the QEQM hospital in Margate

The intensive care unit of a hospital in Kent is, as you would expect, a stressful and high-energy place.

Machine equipment and alarms cut through the tense atmosphere, as medical professionals fight to save the lives of the most sick and injured.

Deirdre McFarlane has worked in intensive care since 1998
Deirdre McFarlane has worked in intensive care since 1998

Deirdre McFarlane is the critical care matron at the QEQM hospital in Margate.

She said the environment of the intensive care unit can be difficult for people who have never experienced it before.

The matron said: "I think they’d be shocked by the amount of machinery that could be around the patient and the alarms of the monitors.

"When I started the alarms just haunted me, but actually you do get used to it - what we say to the relatives is not to focus on the alarms and machines."

The mother-of-three has been working in intensive care since 1998, and now looks after 62 staff with responsibilities for critical care across the hospital.

"When I started the alarms just haunted me, but actually you do get used to it" - Deirdre McFarlane

Despite the sadness and emotional pain that can come with the intensive care setting, the life-long medical professional said the job can be very rewarding.

She said: "When you’re able to deliver that high standard of care to the team, there’s no better feeling.

"The most amazing feeling is when they come back to visit you when they were last here on death’s door."

When it comes to delivering intensive care, the staff of nurses and doctors never know who - or what - they could be treating next.

The 57-year-old said: "You don’t know what’s coming through the door, the patients feed from A&E, theatres, emergency cases.

The Queen Elizabeth Queen Mother Hospital in Margate
The Queen Elizabeth Queen Mother Hospital in Margate

"It’s got to be very structured, a high standard of care and good leadership for it to not get out of hand.

"We also really concentrate on it not being chaotic, it’s got to stay calm."

Mrs McFarlane is now looking for more nurses to join the intensive care team.

The QEQM hospital is running an open day on Saturday, January 18, for prospective nurses to become part of the fast-paced unit.

Mrs McFarlane said the nature of the care delivered means it is not an environment every medical professional can deal with being in.

"The most amazing feeling is when they come back to visit you when they were last here on death’s door" - Deirdre McFarlane

She said: "Intensive care isn’t always for them, it's a bit like Marmite.

"It's such a specialist area and it's the responsibility of the job. We’ve got a lot of autonomy in intensive care as nurses."

The critical care team work throughout the hospital as well as in the dedicated intensive care unit.

Dr Mark Snazelle, critical care lead at the East Kent Hospitals University NHS Foundation Trust, which manages the QEQM, said: "One of the best things about East Kent Critical Care is that we are all part of one big team: doctors, nurses, physios, dieticians, speech and language therapists, health care assistants, and admin staff."Our nurses are at the forefront of providing the highest quality care to our patients and their families but they are always well-supported by the whole team and we can all learn from each other."

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