A deacon who left medicine to join the church has gone back to the NHS front line to help fight coronavirus – a year after she retired from nursing.
Palliative consultant Rev Dr Susan Salt said she returned to the medical front line during the coronavirus pandemic because “there was an ask and a need”.
Susan, a medic with more than 30 years’ experience, is working at Blackpool Victoria Hospital less than a year after being ordained in the Blackburn Diocese.
She had retired from the hospital in March 2019 to follow her calling to serve in The Church of England.
Last summer she was ordained at Blackburn Cathedral and was working as a Deacon in The Fellside Team, made up of five parishes, before the coronavirus outbreak.
In March, Susan had joined a task group managing the Diocesan response to coronavirus, providing medical and bereavement support advice and guidance.
But when the Government asked retired medics to return to hospital settings, Susan was quick to sign up – and last Friday (April 10) was her first day back in a hospital setting.
She said: “There was clearly a need and an ask. Having left medicine very recently and being qualified in a skill set that was required at this time, I felt it was right for me to respond to the call.
“It was very humbling to return and I was inspired by what had been achieved by the staff and the Trust, reorganising everything to respond effectively to this crisis.
“People are working in areas that they have never worked in before and the staff are doing their absolute best in the face of near impossible conditions.
“They are showing incredible compassion in a situation they would never want to be in.”
Susan initially trained as a GP but, after taking up a locum position in a hospice, she realised that was where her future lay and retrained in palliative medicine.
In 2007 she took up the post of medical director at Trinity Hospice and a palliative care consultant at Blackpool Victoria Hospital.
Susan, of Preston, Lancs., added: “My experience in palliative care enables me to support and empathise with staff in the work they are now doing.
“I am helping with bereavement training and am setting up a new bereavement hub which will enable the Trust to support relatives.”
Some of Susan’s work is on the COVID-19 wards at the hospital which has meant she has had to self-isolate away from her family to keep them safe.
She added: “I have no idea how long I will be at Victoria Hospital, but have committed for at least a month so far and will review the situation after that.
“My roles have definite parallels, as a priest and a medic.
“Both give me the privilege to look after people and treat everyone as equal and I hope that as a deacon, who happens to be a doctor, I can enable patients, their families as well as the staff to be cared for spiritually and mentally as well as physically.”
The Bishop of Burnley, the Right Reverend Philip North, said Susan had made an “exceptional contribution” to his diocesan response group, which he chairs.
Bishop Philip said: “Susan has made an exceptional contribution to our Task Group through a combination of her expert medical background and her understanding of parish life.
“I enormously admire her obedience to God’s call in choosing to return to the medical frontline at this time. We look forward to welcoming her back to parish life in due course for her imminent ordination as a priest.”