AN Essex University academic has returned to the frontline as a critical care nurse to help battle coronavirus 18 years after she last worked in a hospital.

Vikki-Jo Scott, who was formerly dean of Essex University’s School of Health and Social Care, has joined health professionals across the country in returning to the NHS.

Vikki-Jo, who is a specialist critical care nurse, stood down as dean in December and had hoped for a quiet period when she would start a PhD.

She then planned to return to the classroom to teach the university’s health and social care courses.

Instead she has found herself stepping in to help in the midst of a national crisis.

Vikki-Jo has spent two weeks in training, to bring her up to speed with everything which has changed since she was last in intensive care.

This included making sure she was able to correctly fit the personal protective equipment required, which she often has to wear for five or six hours at a stretch.

Now she is covering13 hour shifts at the hospital where she trained and worked before moving into academia.

She said: “It has been physically, mentally and emotionally tough and everybody is feeling exhausted but we are all working together to do the best we can in unusual circumstances.

“The teamwork is absolutely amazing and I feel so privileged to be part of that and to be able to use the skills and experience I have to help in some way.”

Vikki-Jo said the hardest thing has been watching patients cope without the support of their loved ones.

“For most people recovery from coronavirus is really high,” she said.

“We are only seeing the minority of patients, but once you get to critical care things are serious and people are terrified they are going to die.

“Normally the family is key to keeping those in critical care connected to normal life giving them the hope and strength to keep fighting.

“Instead they are having to go through this alone. It is heart breaking, but we do what we can.”