Identical twins Theresa Brown and Victoria Green have spent the past month at the frontline of Croydon’s NHS care. They are also British Airways cabin crew and have been for the past 30 years.
The hiatus in air travel gave them the chance to fulfil their lifetime dream of caring for NHS patients, after the airline company reached out to the NHS. It’s been a life changing experience for the twins.
Their fantastic support is helping free-up nursing staff from non-clinical duties to devote more time on direct patient care.
Theresa, who is 52 from Weybridge, said:
“Croydon is one of the country’s bigger hospitals, so we are really in the thick of it.
“The NHS is brilliant and this experience is also making me respect fellow cabin crews even more. In our 30 years in airlines we’ve seen almost everything. We’ve seen all walks of life. It’s prepared us really well for this. But in the NHS there’s even more diversity, fresh challenges, and even bigger highs and lows.
“We’ve been working part time here at Croydon University Hospital since 6 April, in some of their busiest wards. It’s lovely to take our career interest in the ‘personal touch’ into a new situation. It didn’t take too long to get over my initial shock at how intense NHS care can be, given the global coronavirus outbreak. My emotions are still riding high. To say frontline NHS work is different is an understatement but it’s helped me realise, even more than before, that I’m happiest when I’m caring for people.
“Working in wards has taken a while to get used to. The word ‘sister’ means a lot to us because we are twins, so it took ages to get used to how ward leaders are also called ‘sisters’ – even if they are men! We sort of assumed they were talking about us!”
Victoria said, also 52 from Weybridge, said:
“Coronavirus definitely adds to the emotional challenge. I think that goes for everyone, not just us working in the NHS. As cabin crew, I focused on giving the public a fantastic time. Doctors are usually able to fix people too. But, tragically, coronavirus proves fatal for some people. The staff here are brilliant at handling the sad times and also the many happy ones. They fight tooth and nail to keep coronavirus away. If you can beat it, they will help you beat it.
“Our tendency is to reassure people with some human contact. A hug or a handhold. Safe distancing means we can’t always do that when we want to.
“In a way, I hope our story could inspire other people during coronavirus. If you are having to look at a different type of job or even working in a new industry, do be adventurous about what roles you consider. There might be exciting new opportunities that weren’t there before, for people with your particular skills.
“I love both jobs and would love to split my time between both, if that became possible. We both would. When we were kids we dreamed of being nurses but our lives went in another direction. We’ve seen the world a thousand times, so we have plenty of stories to tell the patients! And obviously we’re waiting to see how jobs in airlines will take off again after coronavirus.”
The twins are two of 20 cabin crew who have been working at Croydon Health Services NHS Trust since 6 April, providing fantastic support in some of our busiest clinical areas. This includes changing beds, helping patients to keep in touch with their families using digital technology and many other kinds of support. For the twins, this has included a lot of time supporting staff who treat patients with confirmed or suspected COVID-19 coronavirus.
Elaine Clancy, who is the Chief Nurse across Croydon’s health organisations and leads our COVID-19 response, said:
“We are so thankful to Theresa and Victoria, and all the cabin crew members. They have terrific skills like advanced first aid training, as well as a huge passion for looking after people. Our staff love working with them. This was a unique opportunity to work with the crews and we’d like to continue it.
“Having Theresa and Victoria onboard is helping us during this very busy time in the NHS, and I’m proud that they are inspired by what they’ve seen here. Thanks so much to them for their tireless enthusiasm - and for the equally tireless support we are getting from the public.”