TWO university lecturers who stepped into the breach to work in hospitals during the coronavirus pandemic have spoken about their experiences.

University of Brighton senior lecturers Dr Hazel Horobin and Lesley White had not worked in clinical practice for years when they volunteered to staff intensive care units during the height of the outbreak.

Both worked in Sussex hospitals in April and May and ended up battling the pandemic alongside students they had previously taught.

“It was full of people who didn’t really belong there, everyone had been shipped in,” said Hazel, a physiotherapist who had not worked in clinical practice for 20 years when she volunteered to work at Eastbourne District General Hospital.

“I worked with nurses who’d come from the sexual health clinic, who had only just qualified, who worked in the community.

“We were all in there together, trying to make sense of it.

The Argus: Hazel volunteered at Eastbourne District General HospitalHazel volunteered at Eastbourne District General Hospital

“When Covid started, I knew how busy my colleagues were going to be, I just really wanted to be helpful and do what I do.

“I can’t say why I had to do it, I just did.”

Lesley had not worked in clinical practice for five years when she volunteered to work in Brighton’s Royal Sussex County Hospital.

“I was anxious that my skills were rusty and that I hadn’t done it for a long time, but it felt like the right thing to do,” Lesley said.

“It was amazing there were nurses who’d been redeployed with little to no experience of intensive care. They really stepped up.

“When I left I was quite senior, but when I went back I was almost quite junior.

“There were staff who I’d taught who were now supporting me and the other redeployed staff. The tables were turned.”

The Argus: Lesley volunteered at the Royal Sussex County HospitalLesley volunteered at the Royal Sussex County Hospital

Hazel agrees the experience was humbling.

“If I’m honest, I really felt that I got a lot more than I gave,” she said.

“I think there was something really symbolic about me being there, it was the university reaching out and doing its part in helping.

“I gravitated to the frailty ward, which was where a lot of people were recovering from Covid.

“If you have the virus, it can knock the stuffing out of you. Just getting some of the patients out of bed was a big deal.”

Professor Paula Kersten, head of the university’s School of Health Sciences, said staff are “immensely proud” of the duo’s efforts during the pandemic.

“They were really well supported by colleagues,” she said.

  • The coronavirus Sussex Crisis Fund has been set up to help those affected by the pandemic. The Argus’s charity and American Express have each donated £50,000 to kick-start the appeal. Grants will usually be for up to £5,000. More information is available at www.sussexgiving. To donate visit