From airline to frontline – our Virgin Atlantic crew share their experiences

Earlier this year, eight members of crew from Virgin Atlantic flew in to help support patients and staff on wards at the Royal Bolton Hospital in health care assistant and patient liaison roles, working to enhance patient experience. With visiting restrictions in place, the crew have been able to put their customer service skills to good use, making sure patients have everything they need and assisting with video calls to family and friends.

With the final stages of the Government’s restrictions being lifted and international travel beginning to open up again, we caught up with some of the crew to speak to them about their experiences of working at the hospital and what they’ll take away with them as they return to the skies.  

Katie Mainwaring Virgin AtlanticKatie Mainwaring, a member of cabin crew with Virgin Atlantic, worked on G3 and C2 Wards and has recently returned to the skies. Speaking of her experiences of working at the hospital, Katie said: “Getting used to working in a new environment and how fast paced a ward can be was quite challenging when I first started. With so many different people coming and going I found I always wanted to be able to do more to help, not just the patients, but the hard working NHS staff as well.

“Being able to be a friend to the patients has by far been the most rewarding aspect of my role. Asking them about their life outside of hospital and seeing them talk to family was always so heart-warming.

“It’s been a huge eye opener working in a hospital and an absolute pleasure. Watching how calm the staff are when working under so much pressure is really inspiring and I’ve learnt that pushing yourself to do something outside of your comfort zone is a great way to learn new skills. For me, a positive to come out of the pandemic has been being able to meet some wonderful people and hopefully make a small but significant difference.”

There has been brilliant feedback from patients and staff about the help that the cabin crew have provided. Kim Ashcroft, Ward Manager on G3, welcomed Katie to her team back in March and said: “It’s been great having members of the crew work with us as part of the team – they’ve added that extra element of something special to the ward. They’ve been extremely supportive, compassionate and caring, and our patients have really appreciated having someone to speak to them and help with all the little things that staff don’t always have time to do. Katie was fantastic with the patients and we’ve definitely missed her presence on the ward this week now that she’s returned to her job with Virgin Atlantic.”

As well as supporting patients to communicate with loved ones, members of the crew have also worked with members of the enhanced care team to provide distraction therapy to patients on some of the medical wards. Sue Povey, Flight Service Manager, and her daughter Mia, cabin crew, both work for Virgin Atlantic and have been based on Ward B2. They have invested time in arranging a variety of activities for patients to get involved in such as reading and arts and crafts, and ensuring that there is gentle music playing in the bays to support recovery. In addition, they have provided complementary therapies such as hand massages and manicures, taking the personal care that they have been delivering to the next level.

Lucy Bradshaw, Matron in Acute Adult Care, said: “The professionalism and enthusiasm shown by Sue and Mia has been remarkable and they’ve been eager to learn new skills whilst supporting our patients and staff. From observing them with the patients it is obvious that customer care comes naturally to them.

Virgin Atlantic crew complementary therapies“On one occasion I was in the bay and I heard an elderly lady who had been confused talking to herself. She was telling the story of two air stewardesses who were working in the care industry during the pandemic and how lovely and inspirational they were. I had heard little speech from this lady since her admission so this made me smile and demonstrated to me that the time invested by Sue and Mia was having a positive impact on our patients. They have also been mentioned on several of our patient satisfaction surveys and thanked, especially for the complementary therapies they’ve provided.”

Sue has worked at Virgin Atlantic for 25 years and said that she and Mia have found that the biggest challenge working at the hospital has been not being able to make the patients better. When people fly with them, they are able to make it an enjoyable experience, delivering an amazing on-board service, and people walk away after the flight excited to explore a great destination. They have found working with very ill patients, some of whom are waiting for a diagnosis very different, and often upsetting, and it’s much more difficult to try and put a smile on their face.

Sue and Mia Povey jpg fileSue said: “The most rewarding part is definitely being told by the patients that we are special, simply because we have taken the time to listen to them. The sheer dedication shown by the nurses is incredible and we will take so much back with us to Virgin Atlantic. It’s been an amazing experience for us both and we hope it doesn’t have to end when we return to the sky.”

We would like to thank all of the crew from Virgin Atlantic for choosing to support us here at Bolton on our journey through the pandemic, and for the contribution that they have made to the services we provide. The difference that they have made, supporting our staff and enrichening the experience of our patients, is very much appreciated by everyone. We wish them well as they depart, back to higher altitudes, and hope that some of the crew may choose to continue to work with us in between their travels.

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