Business management

Meet the nurse taking pride in her own PPE

Sexual health nurse Michelle Maynard responded to PPE shortages by launching a business selling protective equipment alongside her day job, and is now flying the rainbow flag for Pride month.

“Being a manager, I thought: “I can’t ask members of my team to be redeployed if I’m not prepared to do it.” I wanted to lead by example,” says Maynard, who is head of clinical services at Leeds Community NHS Healthcare Trust. “So I went to the intensive treatment unit (ITU) along with around 20 of my team, and at first, I was terrified. In sexual health, our patients walk in and they walk out. That was not the case in the ITU, and it hit me really hard.”

Maynard lost a team member to coronavirus during her first week working in the ITU, nursing him herself in his last days. But despite facing this and similar tragedies on a daily basis, she says there were bright spots to her time working in the ITU. “One of the things that stays with me was FaceTiming the families so patients could see their loved ones, and those tears of joy,” she says.

Protect and serve

As a manager in the NHS, Maynard is used to solving problems. So when demand for PPE outstripped supply at the height of the pandemic, she personally rose to the challenge.

“At our trust, we had PPE from day one, but I was really worried about those who didn’t. I started to think about what I could do to help address the shortage – and that’s how PPE Products UK was born.”

We should all be pushing for support for equal rights, open conversation, and freedom of choice

Michelle Maynard
Head of clinical services, Leeds Community NHS Healthcare Trust

Maynard tapped into the expertise of friends in Turkey, who were forced to close down their business, a wedding dress boutique, due to the pandemic. They were able to use their manufacturing experience to produce masks and scrubs. “In my head, when I was creating the business, the NHS was covered – so it was about keeping other people safe who did not have regular access to PPE,” she says.

Orders began to come in from retailers, health centres, and hospitality and beauty businesses, with Maynard’s brightly coloured scrubs – “My small part in cheering people up during the pandemic” – proving particularly popular.

“I also wanted to find a way to celebrate the LGBTQ+ community – so I created a line of rainbow protective face masks,” says Maynard.

“Last year it was disappointing not being able to celebrate Pride the way that we normally would. So the rainbow masks are my way of encouraging people to engage more in discussion on the rights of people with protected characteristics.

“We should all be pushing for support for equal rights, open conversation, and freedom of choice.”

Committing to equality, diversity and inclusion

Leeds Community Healthcare Trust is doing fantastic work to support equality, diversity and inclusion, says Maynard, and she’s proud to be supporting that action.

“Our rainbow ambassadors wear multicoloured lanyards and carry a badge within their email signature to make our allyship more visible – it signals to people that they can approach us with any worries or concerns, and opens up that conversation.

“We’ve also developed our transitioning policy so that staff members who are transitioning feel fully supported in their journey and everyone in the team is better educated as well. And our ‘@ LCH, I Can Be Me’ campaign is a pledge that staff take to be open to conversation, commit to equality, diversity and inclusion, and to play an active part in bringing our community together.

“I personally think it’s a really powerful message – and we’re committed to spreading it all year round, not just during Pride month.”

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