Ruth Tighe, Critical Care and Anaesthetics Consultant

Ruth Tighe, a critical care consultant. She is wearing blue scrubs and pictured next to some medical equipment on the critical care unit

Ruth Tighe had never heard of Ashford before she came to work at the William Harvey Hospital – now she is one of its most passionate advocates.

As a consultant in critical care and anaesthetics at the William Harvey Hospital she was attracted to the work-life balance a one in eight rota offers, together with the busy and varied case load.

A purpose-built high-spec 24-bed critical care unit is due to open at the hospital this summer, which she believes will be another draw to fellow consultants.

She said: “I came to Ashford for the last six months of my training and I had to google it to see where it was.

“When I arrived, I knew immediately it was somewhere special. It was such a warm department, and the nursing staff were incredibly welcoming and trusting and immediately supported me.

“The consultant body treated me as an equal and made it clear they would welcome me back and the unit was brilliant. It was medium sized but with really high turnover and really interesting cases. It seemed perfect.”

Ruth applied for a permanent job when she qualified and started working with the team in November 2019.

Covid struck just as she was going on maternity leave and she returned after six months to help with the second wave.

She said: “For those six months I felt I should be involved but I couldn’t help because I had a new baby.

“But six months was the right time for me to come back and it was good to be helpful.

“It was super busy, but the team was brilliant. It was everything that you saw on the news and more. The staff were stretched and pulled, but they had done it all before and just swung into action.

“I couldn’t have wanted a better or more dedicated team. Every time we needed a new bed one was made. Every time a bed was empty it was filled. We had to work in very different ways, there was a real learning path, but there were positives as well – including the funding for our new unit which will be amazing.

“And it was very grounding to come home after a Covid shift and have to sweep pancake crumbs from the floor!”

Ruth combines working in critical care with working as an anaesthetist, and said the combination was perfect for her.

She said: “Anaesthetics is the science that underpins all our medicine, but intensive care gives you the diagnostics and the interaction with patients and relatives and a more holistic approach.

“It is really exciting and really fulfilling, in life and in death. When you have given your all, even if it is not successful, the patient and relatives know they have had everything. Then the focus changes to giving them a respectful and good death.”

Consultants are encouraged to combine critical care with other specialities, as well as to carry out their own research or projects.

Ruth said: “No one is stuck in their ways and I could phone any one of my colleagues to ask their opinion, and that doesn’t happen everywhere.

“The hospital is a brilliant combination of a district general hospital with the caseload of a big teaching hospital and I think it is unique in that. It is so different to other hospitals I have worked in, so if you are thinking of us I would say give it a go.”