Eslam Zahy, a Clinical Advisor in our Peterborough contact centre, tells us how he strikes a balance between working for our NHS 111 service and studying for his Masters’ degree in clinical nursing.

Eslam joined HUC as a Clinical Advisor in October 2020 to gain more experience in triaging over the phone and working with NHS Pathways. This is a clinical decision support system used by NHS 111 services for the remote assessment of callers. He had worked in hospitals and in primary care before but had never worked with that system before in the past. At the moment, Eslam is also pursuing his Masters’ Degree from the University of Anglia Ruskin University. “I want to finish my Masters’ course and join the Out of Hours service or the Clinical Assessment Service team in the contact centre as I see there is an opportunity for me to improve and thrive here,” he says.

He adds, “It’s not easy, working and studying at the same time, but if you have the support, you can do it,” he says, adding, “I am really lucky to have a great manager. Mary is very encouraging, and I owe a lot of my achievements to her. I also have a mentor here at HUC, which was one of the requirements of my degree. David has helped me a great deal with my studies and is incredibly supportive.”

Prioritising patients according to clinical need is crucial when triaging and Eslam enjoys learning more about the process every day. “Using your clinical expertise and NHS Pathways, you have to make a decision on who needs to be seen face to face, who would benefit from a video consultation and patients who only need robust self-care advice. Obviously patient safety is key at all times,” he says. “Again, the support we all give each other here at HUC is immense.”

His first call, dealing with a parent whose six-day old child was having a cardiac arrest, remains a memorable experience. “Some calls can be very serious – with palliative patients, cardiac arrests over the phone, or even calls related to mental health – sometimes suicide.

Working at NHS 111 means we need to be able to manage all of this. “I find that patients open up more over the phone rather than speaking face-to-face with the clinician. I have done telephone triaging before, something I was introduced to when I was working in primary care in prisons. There was a mother and child unit in the prison, and it was very difficult for the mothers to bring the babies to the clinic, it was quite stressful for them. I suggested the idea of consulting them over the phone and it worked very well. This was before Covid,” he emphasises.

Eslam shares instances of mental health calls, where people feel suicidal. “You speak to them, calm them and convince them that whatever it is, it’s not worth taking your life – it is very challenging, but when you have that duty and responsibility, you have to do it,” he says, adding, “We have the professional code of practice to follow and it’s something I personally feel confident about.”

What does he like most about his job? “I enjoy supporting people, reassuring them and making them feel that they are in safe hands. Situations where people cannot speak to their GP for whatever reason or any general concern, being able to help them with that and letting them know they can still get professional clinical advice – it’s very rewarding.”

About HUC, he adds, “Working here has been a very fulfilling experience. The support I get from my manager and colleagues is great. I’m very grateful that they’ve facilitated my studies and are happy to invest in me. There is plenty of scope for me in the organisation, and I’m confident when I finish what I’m doing, I’m going to be working within HUC, probably in a different role.”