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Working on the front-line: Career Ladder talks to Interserve NHS Domestic Manager, Vanessa Morrison

For this month’s regular column on individual FM careers, we talked to one of the many front-line FM people working for our NHS.  Interserve Domestic Manager Vanessa Morrison runs a team of 219 people delivering catering and domestic services to an NHS Trust hospital that is now treating patients who have contracted COVID-19. 

Q: How did you progress in FM to your current role?
In 2007 I’d had a decade off to bring up my children and felt it was time to return to work. I saw a job advert which caught my eye and the rest is history. One of my first major tasks was to ensure colleagues passed an important e-learning module, then I filled-in for a manager who had a long-term absence. Because I ran the morning shift successfully for 15-months, I was invited to become duty manager on a permanent basis before I took on my current role. We now have three managers who are responsible for more than 300 colleagues. My main role is organising the roster and ensuring the morning shift runs smoothly.

Q: What do you enjoy most about working in this sector?
Every day is a challenge, but in a good way. It involves excellent organisational skills and I am constantly learning new skills and how to adapt to new situations – now more than ever. Clearly meeting the challenge posed by COVID-19 has been an experience and while it’s not one that any of us ever wanted, I am deeply proud of the way colleagues have risen to the challenge. We all know that if a hospital is not clean then it cannot open, our jobs are of fundamental importance and that means a lot to me.

Q: What personal qualities do you think are most needed to do your job?
No matter how stressed I feel or what is going on in my life I make sure that I come to work with a smile on my face. I think it’s so important to be approachable and to have an open-door policy. In addition, I will always volunteer to work on the frontline if the need ever arises – showing that you can lead from the front is also crucial. People skills, being a good listener and being able to work in partnership with the customer are also vital ingredients.

Q: How do you keep up with the latest thinking on infection control/cleaning regimes in such a fast-moving situation?
Interserve has been at the forefront of issuing guidance to staff. Our Cleaning Director Janet Park and her team has released a 30-minute video showing best cleaning practice to combat COVID-19 and we have tool box talks that support the team. Over and above that, it’s crucial to work in partnership with the NHS, to understand what their needs are, and to stick to the NHS guidance as that evolves. We are ensuring all the touch points in every room are cleaned regularly. Where we are cleaning and serving food to patients who are infected, we don the correct PPE, follow our training and stick to our procedures, for example remaining a set distance from infected patients at all times.

Q: What are currently the greatest challenges for you and your team?
Keeping every member of staff feeling safe and happy and focused on cleaning the touch points and ensuring that everything humanly possible is done to create the best environment for patients and NHS colleagues. It is particularly challenging now because we all have problems connected with COVID-19 and the lockdown in our personal lives. I’ve a shoulder people can cry on, but it has to be at two-metres distance!

Everyone is pulling together. It is a wonderful team effort.

Q: After this, do you think front end operatives will get more recognition for the vital jobs they do?
I sincerely hope so. I first experienced this after the first Thursday 8pm clap. Most of my colleagues came in for the Friday morning shift in tears, we were all deeply touched. When I saw their reaction I started crying too. It was very emotional. I call my colleagues ‘environmental ninjas’, I know how hard they work and they deserve so much appreciation.

Q: What are your future plans when the crisis has passed?
I want a nice holiday! However, I genuinely love my job and am committed to this for the long-term.

Interserve FM urges colleagues to volunteer

Interserve FM Andy Nash volunteers as a blood biker to help ferry vital medical supplies to the NHS and has urged others to support the third sector.

The Facilities Management Manager’s day job involves running a team of 18 colleagues who deliver total FM services to the Home Office, Civil Service and border control services.

But in his spare time he dons the hi-vis uniform of Yeovil Freewheelers (YFW) Blood Bikes, a team of 70 emergency medical motorcycle couriers that provide a free service to the NHS. He spends roughly a day per fortnight on call and has covered up to 800 miles during a weekend shift.

Recently, just one of his tasks included delivering COVID-19 blood samples from Yeovil District Hospital to Musgrove Park Hospital in Taunton. Jobs can range from carrying blood plasma through to medical equipment, samples and supplies.

Two-weeks-ago the Government launched the Good Samaritan App to attract volunteers to support the NHS during the COVID-19 pandemic. Nash said: “I love being a blood biker, it’s the best thing I’ve ever done.

“I strongly urge others to get involved in volunteering – especially at this time – because it’s wonderful to really make a difference.

“Being thanked by relatives is humbling, and I’ve also been told by hospitals that I’ve directly saved two lives which is an incredible feeling.”

Nash pledged to volunteer after he was diagnosed with cancer of the appendix in 2011 and medical support was delivered by one of the YFW Blood Bikes team.

He said: “After I completed treatment for cancer and passed my motorbike test, I was desperate to give something back.”

To learn more about the Good Samaritan App please visit https://www.goodsamapp.org/NHS and to learn more about the YFB Blood Bike group and to see how to donate to keep them on the road, please visit: www.yfwbloodbikes.org/



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