Blacktown nurses take you behind the scenes at quarantine hotels

Blacktown Hospital clinical nurse educator Tracy Samuel and registered nurse Rachel Keys. Not pictured: enrolled nurse Kate Johnston.

Three nurses from Blacktown Hospital have answered the call to help in the fight against COVID-19 by swabbing returned travellers quarantining in Sydney hotels.

Clinical nurse educator Tracy Samuel, registered nurse Rachel Keys and enrolled nurse Kate Johnston have all been on the front line this year, gaining critical skills in screening and swabbing hospital visitors and patients.

Their assistance with hotel quarantine involved partnering with an agency nurse and going door to door swabbing returned travellers and checking for any respiratory symptoms.

Tracy said it was a big adjustment after spending nine years away from clinical work, focusing on workplace culture with stints at the Ministry of Health and Agency for Clinical Innovation.

“Initially I was involved with setting up the hospital screening, supporting the staff with resources, troubleshooting and any clinical questions,” Tracy said.

“I could’ve said no to the hotel swabbing but these are desperate times and I’ve got to do my part.

“It was a long day but everyone was very compliant and understanding. The most difficult part was swabbing children and babies – parent engagement was essential and I was very fortunate they were all amazing.”

Tracy and Rachel have both been assisting with Blacktown Hospital’s COVID-19 response since early 2020.

Rachel Keys started at Blacktown Hospital this year and described it as a “baptism of fire” going nearly straight into a pandemic response.

“There were new policies and procedures to learn quickly but the team has been great. I’ve gained new skills and learned a lot about how the hospital works,” Rachel said.

“There’s a lot of camaraderie and a sense of accomplishment among the staff. We want to help the community of course but we’re here for each other as well.

“There is some fear of getting sick but we deal with contact precautions every day in our role. I’m confident in my ability and the education and training I’ve received.”

Kate Johnston is studying to become a registered nurse and was on exchange in Nepal in January when the coronavirus outbreak started to spread around the world.

“There was definitely the fear of the unknown. We all started wearing masks immediately,” Kate said.

“This year has been an experience and a half with online learning, being on the front line at work and everything changing personally. But my managers and team at Blacktown Hospital have given me confidence.”

All the nurses said they were grateful for the opportunity to help and encouraged people to continue to take COVID-19 seriously.

“The hot spots are getting closer to home,” Tracy said.

“Everyone please be sensible, adhere to the guidelines, be mindful, don’t get complacent, and be nice to each other. That’s very important.”

If you have any symptoms of COVID-19, including a cough or sore throat, please self-isolate and arrange to get tested.

Stay up to date with the latest health advice and testing locations at the NSW Health website.