Pelagia trained as a teacher whilst living in Africa and when she moved to the UK with her husband in the 1980s she intended to look for teaching opportunities in her new country.
After finding the teaching culture very different to what she was used to, Pelagia looked around at other career opportunities,
“I knew I wanted to work with people so I looked at nurse training,” remembers Pelgaia “after completing a work placement at a hospital in London, I knew straight away that I wanted to be a nurse!”
Pelagia qualified as a nurse in 1990 and worked in intensive care departments for a number of years. In 1999, she joined the military and in 2005 specialised in infection prevention and control in the British Army. During her military career she has been deployed to Bosnia, Afghanistan, Irag and Sierra Leone.
It was on deployment to Sierra Leone where Pelagia and her team faced a deadly enemy, Ebola. During the Ebola outbreak that started in 2014, more than 11,000 people lost their lives. Pelagia and her team were tasked with preparing and training healthcare staff to enable them to safely deliver care to patients in an Ebola facility. It was tough work but Pelagia takes a lot of pride from the experience,
“I was proud that when the facility was inspected by the World Health Organisation it was the only one to obtain 100% safety compliance. It was a huge achievement and I shouted from the rooftops!
“Working during the Ebola outbreak was a totally new experience to me and a lot of my colleagues who were deployed to Africa. It was daunting but a welcome challenge too, every bit of my nursing and military training was utilised to ensure that myself and the team came up with protocols that would work in this challenging and dangerous environment.”
Pelagia is coming to the end of her military nursing career and retires in 2020. She is ready to move back to a civilian nursing job and is looking for infection prevention and control roles in the NHS.
“I love nursing and the sense of vocation you get, or giving something back to your community. You’re always surrounded by people and your nursing team become your extended family. Whether you are in a very difficult situation or not, you always get that feel-good factor because you are helping people and making a difference to their lives.”
Pelagia’s team nominated her for a Cavell Star Award for going above and beyond for her patients. Major Leigh Kenworthy explains,
“She always puts her patients and colleagues first and ensures they receive the best care in the austere and dangerous environment of the Deployed Operations. Pelagia has delivered excellent Infection Prevention and Control knowledge, practice and mentoring around the world, whether in the middle of a conflict zone or supporting humanitarian operations such as the Ebola outbreak in Sierra Leone.
“As Pelagia comes to the end of her military career, she deserves to be recognised for all the hard work and support she has given her colleagues and patients under her care.”
Pelagia reacted to winning her Cavell Star Award,
“It’s still sinking in and I struggle to find the words to describe it, so I’ll say it’s absolutely fantastic! I am the person I am because of the people I have worked with. Good, bad or indifferent, all these people have shaped me as a nurse. I’m just absolutely thrilled that my colleagues have recognised me in this way. It’s because of my team that I am in the position I am.”