A husband and wife team who are both government key workers are getting used to the new normal that COVID-19 has thrust upon many workers in vital roles across the UK.

Captain Dominic Noone, the Adjutant at Stafford based 16th Signal Regiment has swapped office life for working from his quarter at Beacon Barracks in Stafford.

He has a key role in the Regiment which is now stood up as CSF 22 – one of the army’s Coronavirus Support Forces that have been set up.

But his wife, Hannah, 29, a medical student in her final year, has also seen her life and career change overnight as she has been fast tracked from university to begin her medical career early at the George Eliot Hospital NHS Trust in Nuneaton, near Coventry, where she has recently completed her first shifts employed by the hospital as part of plans to boost doctor numbers during the crisis.

Hannah is one of a growing number of trainee doctors who are being catapulted straight from their studies to the sharp end of medical practice – joining an army of medics battling to save the lives of those who need urgent treatment and intensive care in hospitals across the UK.

The couple, both designated as key workers as part of the government’s COVID-19 response, have described how they are adapting to their new lives. 

Dominic says: “Hannah has just got her exam results on 18 March and was supposed to go to Nepal for six weeks as part of her medical training but instead she finds herself in this limbo between medical student and junior doctor.”

He has also been adapting to a new life working from home where his tasks include keeping the regimental home fires burning in terms of taking part in grading boards, discipline cases and routine reports and returns, as well as tracking and ensuring force levels in his unit.

But as many have been finding out, remote and virtual working can bring its own special set of unique challenges, not least that of communicating internally with colleagues using new and unfamiliar systems. However, Dominic says that his task has been made much easier with the advent and growth of Defence Connect, which has been a vital tool during the last few weeks.

“With so many people dispersed, Defence Connect has been really invaluable. It has helped us to communicate the key messages as well as ensuring documents and links are available to all. We’ve even used a video posted on there for some of our COVID-19 pre-deployment training which has been hugely helpful – Defence Connect has really grown massively and has accelerated just at the time when we really need it the most,” he says.

Hannah says she was adapting to her new life at the hospital and embracing the opportunity to kick-start her medical career early: “I’m proud to be useful at a time of national need. The situation is fast-changing and forcing us to be flexible and adaptable. It’s not something any of us expected to encounter at all, let alone so early into our careers. However, I want to rise to the challenge and be part of a new cohort of junior doctors moulded in the face of adversity.”

She has also taken part in the weekly #ClapForCarers events that have taken place in communities and towns across the world from her home behind the wire at Beacon Barracks in Stafford.

“It felt strange at first to be included in the group that people were clapping for and not at all deserved just yet! But I think it’s a great way for people to feel like they’re also doing their bit. We live behind the wire on a small patch so I wasn’t expecting so much noise – we can definitely hear the community spirit! It’s a great morale booster for everyone taking part,” says Hannah.

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Andy Simms

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