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a BUILDERS LIFE in the nhs

With Kati Hoffmann

Kati, what do you do for a living?

At the moment, I am writing my PhD in Global Health. I’m an ICU nurse by profession and work weekend shifts to support my studies.

What's it been like for you in the last couple of years under these extraordinary circumstances?

I was based in Nepal for a research project when the pandemic started. After my return to the UK, I went back full-time into ICU nursing. The work throughout the pandemic has been very hard. The NHS was already in a very vulnerable position when the pandemic hit due to 10+ years of systematic underfunding by the Tory government. The number of patients, combined with understaffing, lack of PPE and other material made it very difficult, especially during the surges. The NHS runs on a lot of goodwill by incredibly dedicated staff, and it makes me sad to see that many of my colleagues have burnt out or left the profession.

Have you learned anything about yourself over this period?

I think I have realised where my limits were. I worked a lot and did not look after myself very well. I thought I could just hang in until this is over. But the pandemic has been a marathon, not a sprint. I think (hope!) I became better at paying more attention to my feelings and needs, asserting my boundaries, giving my body more time to rest, and my mind more time to process.

The first year of the pandemic felt like firefighting, and (whilst well-intended), I found the “NHS hero”- narrative quite problematic. It put a lot of pressure on staff who felt even less able to seek support, and kind of removed the necessity to pay us appropriately. Like many of my colleagues I am feeling quite demoralised about the absence of a pay rise that would at least account for inflation, and the working conditions are no better. Though we have fewer patients, almost all of them are unvaccinated. It’s hard sometimes to not take certain things to heart, for example when people tell me “Covid is no big deal” or when I hear people speak about conspiracy theories or complain about the inconvenience of wearing masks or getting tested. That’s work in progress.

I understand you are also a PhD student?

Yes, I am based at King’s College London, and I was lucky to get funding for a project I am super excited about.

What is the subject of your PhD?

My project deals with PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder) in women in Low- and Middle- Income Countries. I am planning to do field research in rural Ethiopia later this year to understand better why there are lower rates of PTSD despite higher trauma exposure in this population.

What do you like to do to unwind when you're not working or studying?

I love climbing, dancing, practicing yoga, meditation, listening to music, reading, and learning Hebrew with Ed.

When and where are you at your happiest?

When I am travelling and connecting with people from different cultures, learning about their way of living. In the before-times, I used to travel a lot and I miss it.

Why did you join Makor Hayim?

I am friends with Yon and Stacy and Stacy introduced me to the community. I am perceiving everyone at Makor Hayim as very warm, welcoming, and inclusive. I feel a strong sense of community and I very much like the activist bits too. 

You come along to the Navigating Judaism course - what do you get out of joining these sessions?

I love the Navigating Judaism course! It’s such a friendly environment to learn together and from each other. So much I didn’t know that I yet need to learn!

What's been your most meaningful experience at Makor Hayim?

I loved the in-person events that I was lucky to attend last year. That was Erev Rosh Hashanah at Ed’s place and the Tea Party at Martin and Lauretta's home. It was so lovely to finally see other community Builders in 3D.  I hope many more events will happen this year!

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