Reflections from Campus Shield

Posted on: 21 April 2021 by Rachel Parkes in April posts

sports hall testing centre
Testing centre in the University sports hall on the city centre campus

When Covid-19 hit the UK in 2020, a dedicated team across the University was brought together to deliver robust testing and tracing, welfare, guidance and safety measures to the #Teamlivuni community. Rachel Parkes and some of her colleagues reflect on a challenging year, and their amazing achievements helping staff, students and Liverpool as a city through the pandemic.

Rachel Parkes: Campus Shield Project Manager

‘It is almost a year ago to the day since I was having to come to terms with the lockdown, working from home, home schooling and my project pretty much coming to a halt due to COVID. Things were slow work wise when my manager asked me to have a conversation with Professor Louise Kenny about a COVID-related project. I was excited and apprehensive to be getting involved with such a high-profile activity, and soon realised the magnitude of the task before me.

I’ve worked on a wide range of projects and programmes throughout my career, but nothing quite like Campus Shield. The COVID Active Management Partnership by Universities for Society was all about getting staff and students safely on campus during a pandemic at a time like no other.

We’ve managed to achieve so much - establishing the first HEI (Higher Education Institution) testing programme in Liverpool; helping the City Council in delivering the asymptomatic testing pilot; and supporting over 2000 staff and students with Covid-19.  We also carried out over 60,000 Covid-19 tests and developed an app with Evergreen Life to support symptom monitoring and COVID health promotion - and this is just picking out a few highlights!

Campus signage for covid precautions

Covid safety signage

Creating new partnerships and networks was crucial to support one another across the sector and city region. I’ve made some fantastic new colleagues and friendships over the past 12 months, and I’m sure I’ll keep in touch with these people after the project. I have experienced the most challenging and rewarding times of my career in the last year, and feel very proud of what the project has achieved. It feels like a whirlwind 12 months of a project and we’ve all learnt a whole load of stuff that we’ll probably never need to know again – providing we don’t get another pandemic anytime soon anyway! I’m sad to be returning to the day job in May but looking forward to what the next big project brings me!’

Karolina Brown and Richard Hogan: COVID Advisory Service Supervisors

‘Working as part of the COVID Advisory Service has primarily involved tracing staff and students who have tested positive with COVID-19, and identifying people who have been in close contact with them and if they have had any activity on campus. It is a privilege to be a part of a committed and supportive team. Due to our continuous dedication to our work we have been able to protect our university community from the spread of coronavirus, whilst providing ongoing support for staff and students’ wellbeing and mental health.

Adapting to working from home has been the toughest part of the job. Despite not having to commute to work daily, we have really missed being able to have a work life and home life, as sometimes it merges into one and it is hard to switch off when finishing work for the day. It makes it even tougher that talk about Covid is everywhere - as we are all living though it - so most days after clocking off, the conversation of Covid continues, whether it’s on the TV or in discussion with family and friends.

The most rewarding part of the job has been seeing the impact our welfare calls have had on the staff and students. Our team contact an individual during their self-isolation period, following a positive test, and check in with them to see how they are feeling mentally and physically. As lockdown has been difficult for everyone, in different ways, the welfare calls have allowed us to identify struggling staff and students and provide them with the support they need. Whether it is mental health support, help with food and essentials or just having someone to talk to whilst they are feeling down. We have received a great response from the UoL community on these calls and they have expressed how grateful they have been to receive one. This makes any part of the job that is slightly tougher, much more worthwhile.

Being involved with setting up the COVID Helpline was a key achievement during my time at the University. Before the University’s COVID Helpline was set up, there was no national phone number students could call to ask questions about coronavirus guidance and international travel rules. This service has been invaluable for the UoL community to use as we have been able to provide helpful advice and we have simplified government guidance so it is easier to understand. We have also been able to assist members of the public with their COVID queries which they have found to be really useful. As we have expanded the services we offer in our team, we have now become the COVID Advisory Service which covers contact tracing, welfare support, a helpline and testing on campus. Being able to work as part of a Covid team, that didn’t even exist this time last year, feels like a huge achievement in itself and something we are proud to have been a part of.’

 

Angela Davies, Testing Operations Manager

'My introduction to the University’s Covid Testing Programme started as Tester at the Symptomatic centre where I was part of initial team brought together to deliver onsite testing to students and University staff.

Campus testing booth

Testing booths on campus

I feel very honoured to have played a small part in the outstanding care package the University offered to all on campus, and it was apparent that students and staff who used our service were very grateful to have this onsite facility.  I was promoted to Supervisor when the Asymptomatic centre was opened in December, and more recently given the role of Operations Manager overseeing the delivery of Covid testing at all four of our sites.

Comforting distressed young students who feared they had Covid, came as second nature to me.  Being mum to two teenagers, helped me to understand their fears and anxieties, especially those who were away from home for the first time.  I helped guide them to further support and will admit to a little fussing over them in making sure they phoned home and had someone to help look after them.  It was heartbreaking to witness the reality that Covid had on some of the worst affected people.  I feel very proud to be part of the University of Liverpool, because I know that we were one of the leading Universities who put our students at the heart of all we do.

I believe nothing could be more rewarding than being part of the management team that brought together over 100 new staff members in a very short timeframe enabling us to work together, 7 days a week and deliver almost 60,000 tests so far.  I am very aware of how lucky I am to work with such a dynamic, dedicated, energetic and fun team.  Together, we have risen to a massive challenge and delivered an outstanding service and will continue to do so for as long as required.'

 

Debra Nicholls, Project Co-ordinator, Faculty of Health and Life Sciences

‘I am the Executive PA to the Executive Pro-Vice-Chancellor (EPVC) and Faculty Director of Operations (FDO) for the Faculty of Health & Life Sciences and am also the Project Coordinator for CAMPUS Shield, working alongside the Project Manager.  I helped with the procurement of all items required to run all the University’s COVID testing sites – initially the portacabin for symptomatic testing, and then the asymptomatic testing centres in the sports hall, Greenbank and Leahurst. From the procurement of a portacabin to the purchasing of tissues, to the transporting of the samples to the lab, to the transport of students to the sites.  You name it, I have probably done it on this project!

Prioritisation has been key to providing support to both the Faculty and the Project, with requests from one extreme to the next!   I sometimes feel as if I have been chained to the computer and screens, and regularly get the comment from my husband ‘Are you not moving from that chair today?!’

Keeping on top of several diaries, the huge number of emails and the regularly updated COVID restriction rules have been the toughest part for me. From regional TIERs to numerous types of tests available - PCR, SMART, lateral flow - and the pros and cons for each test, together with the constant challenges on the advice provided when it doesn’t match what the recipient wants to hear! Keeping all the balls in the air at the same time for both the Faculty and the project has been really rewarding for me, however.

I’m really proud of so many things,  but a high point for me was arranging at exceptionally short notice a focus group of students (at a time when there weren’t many students on campus due to the 2nd lockdown) to meet with members of the Government Task Force. I also created a system to record applications from students to recruit to roles within both the asymptomatic testing centre and LAMP testing (at Liverpool Clinical Laboratories, on behalf of LUHFT); liaised with payroll and new recruits to be set up on the payroll system; met so many different people from a wide cohort of teams – University, local HEIs, NHS organisations, local councillors, public health experts, GPs etc, and working with a great team who make up Campus Shield - all online working from my home office!’

 

Discover more

Find out more about campus safety, welfare and guidance at the University of Liverpool

Read about how the Evergreen Life app has been helping our researchers gain vital Covid-19 insights in Matthew Carter's blog post.