Zahra Denideni, Pharmacy Education and training lead

Zahra Denideni, Pharmacy Education and training lead, talks about her experience of Covid-19, including the impact it has had on her role as Chair of our Disability and wellbeing staff network.

What does your role normally involve?

I look after anything that falls under Pharmacy Education and training, alongside my colleague, Alison Redfern. The department has a whole range of training programmes including independent prescribing; and NVQ courses for trainee pharmacy technicians.

I run the pre-registration pharmacy training programme where graduates undergo training for one year to become fully functioning pharmacists.

Alison and I also share a teacher practitioner role off-site at Kingston University, where we conduct lectures, tutorials and workshops. We also host undergraduates for placements, as well as write and mark exam questions, essays and projects.

Separate to this, I chair the disability and wellbeing staff network. These network meetings allow staff to share information and good practice. It is also an opportunity to highlight any issues encountered by colleagues with disabilities, or for managers to seek guidance on how to accommodate staff with specific needs.

How has it changed as a result of Covid-19?

The usual training programmes had to take a back seat when Covid-19 emerged. Our Spanish students had to return to Spain; cross-sector and university placements were cancelled; and Kingston University moved all teaching and assessments online.

Our department also saw a shift in focus on training as we increased intensive care capacity on the St George’s site. This is because more pharmacists were required to provide a service to these areas.

The wellbeing of my department became an even higher priority, especially at the beginning of the pandemic. Since Covid-19, I have been more involved in addressing staff concerns and ensuring that my team has all the most up-to-date information.

Also, the way our disability and wellbeing network meetings are held have temporarily changed to ensure that we maintain social distance guidance. These meetings now take now place via conference call.

I know you are observing Ramadan. How has fasting been during the pandemic?

This Ramadan has been quite different and actually strange! Social distancing has meant that we are unable to meet our family and friends to open our fast and enjoy a meal together. Additionally, all places of worship are closed which means all congregational prayers have become solitary affairs conducted only in one’s household.

This year, with the cooler weather compared to previous years, fasting for me has not been difficult at all. I salute all staff who are working on the Covid-19 wards; wearing masks all day and doing the best they can whilst also keeping their fast.

Whether someone is observing Ramadan or not, I think Covid-19 has made us all self-reflect, and show more gratitude for what we have. I hope that self-reflection helps us all to be more aware of our actions and how we treat patients, the environment, and each other.

What has most impressed you about the response of staff/colleagues?

My trainees have had all their clinical rotations put on hold which proved to be incredibly difficult for them. The time for them to register as Pharmacists is coming, but their training has been severely impacted. However, they have all been troopers, proving to be an asset to the department as they have put their heads down and ploughed on with the work.

Staff have managed to pull together and define ‘resilience’ in the face of the unknown and a pretty grim reality. We have seen individuals across the department actively volunteer for redeployment to work in new, entirely foreign roles from occupational health to Nightingale, and as ICU healthcare assistants. The sheer extent of altruism not just within the department, but the organisation as a whole has been truly humbling.

What is the hardest thing about the current circumstances?

Not knowing what is coming our way in term of Covid-19 and its consequences.

I also miss my sister who is in Birmingham on her own and I am really gutted that I will not be able to celebrate Eid (Eid marks the end of Ramadan) with her. However, I am grateful that I can stay in contact with my siblings and parents through video calling and phone calls.

My thoughts go out to all those who are struggling with isolation, poor health or dealing with the loss of a loved one.