Portrait of a Nation: The nurse who trained hundreds of frontline workers tackling Covid-19

Moira Forrest's last job before retiring at 60 is preparing staff to work on Abu Dhabi's vaccine trial

Moira Forrest trained medical staff in Abu Dhabi to keep themselves safe while treating Covid-19 patients. Victor Besa / The National
Moira Forrest trained medical staff in Abu Dhabi to keep themselves safe while treating Covid-19 patients. Victor Besa / The National

Moira Forrest has a keen eye for detail.

And it's just as well, because over the last few months people’s lives have depended on following her advice.

As a clinical resource nurse working for Abu Dhabi Health Services Company, Seha, it was her job to help everyone from healthcare workers to security guards, cleaners, porters, and hotel staff to protect themselves against catching Covid-19.

“One time when I was training the non-healthcare workers, we had 250 security staff. The first three groups came with gloves on. I said, can I ask you something, why have you got gloves on?

It’s a nice way to go, feeling that I am contributing and supporting this wonderful country

Moira Forrest, on working with Abu Dhabi's vaccine trial

“They said ‘Ah because we have to wear our gloves’. I asked them, if you have gloves on, do you feel safer? That you can touch everything? ‘Oh yes definitely,’ the said. It was hot too and their hands were sweaty. They had holes in their gloves,” said the Australian.

“And you know what I found out? I asked what you do when you go to the bathroom? Do you take those gloves off? They said no, we keep them on. Then I said what do you when you eat lunch? We keep them on.”

This was hardly their fault, she said. The had been given no training up to this point on how to use them. And they had only been issued one pair of gloves for the whole day.

She made sure that was addressed, by requesting four pairs for each security guard every day.

It was through making changes like those that she helped hundreds of people protect themselves against catching the virus.

“Yesterday I was at Adnec and there was one facility manager there. I trained the staff of five companies.

“He came to me and said 'Hey Moira, we didn’t have one out of 450 people get sick. Everyone washed their hands'”.

Hearing that means a lot to Ms Forrest, who was supposed to have left the country already to retire as she will turn 60 in October.

By the time she heard her contract had been extended, she had sold almost everything in her house in preparation for leaving.

“I started selling everything last September. I am very organised,” she said.

“I was about to sell my bed because I was supposed to be leaving last week.”

Ms Forrest moved to the UAE a decade ago in 2010. The first time she visited, to see a friend, she had to ask her to point out where it was on a map.

But after one six-week visit she was hooked. She returned the following year for more than 10 weeks.

And then decided to see if she could find a job in the UAE.

“I felt comfortable. It was safe,” she said.

“I got this magazine about working in the Middle East. There were two contact numbers. I got this beautiful Irish girl the second time. I said I am going to come and see you. She prepared everything and got me an appointment for an interview.”

She got the job and joined Tawam Hospital in Al Ain as a charge nurse in the neonatal intensive care unit, where she looked after its youngest patients, even accompanying some on trips abroad for additional treatment or tests.

After that she joined Al Ain Hospital, where she works today. She began her role as a teacher and trainer in the field as a clinical resource nurse back in 2015.

During the last few months, she has focused on 15 types of education programmes, of which infection control was just one.

She has now completed that, but before she goes, she has one last task, which could turn out to be the most important of her career. She will conduct training for those administering and running the Phase 3 clinical trial for a Covid-19 vaccine, which is being run in Abu Dhabi and Al Ain.

It is already underway, but will continue to ramp up over the coming weeks.

“There is a lot of training to make sure the trial is tight and gives good results. It’s a big job.

“It’s a nice way to go, feeling that I am contributing and supporting this wonderful country.”

Covid-19 outbreak in the UAE

Updated: July 23, 2020 04:06 PM

SHARE

NEWSLETTERS
Sign up to:

* Please select one