3 August 2023

Faith on the front line

Lyn Woods interviews Captain Dan Holland

Remote video URL

As the NHS celebrates its 75th anniversary, Captain Daniel Holland (Homelessness Services Regional Manager, London) talks to Lyn Woods about nursing, becoming an officer and serving during the Covid-19 pandemic.

How did you come to be a Salvation Army officer and a nurse?

I was first called by God to be an officer at the age of 13 but didn’t respond to that call until much later. I was 17 years old and working in a coffee shop at York Hospital, when a specialist nurse suggested I apply to nursing. I qualified and worked as a registered nurse and then as a health visitor for many years, before hanging up my apron and entering the training college.

Were you worried about the risks in the early days of the Covid-19 pandemic?

I had started working remotely from home in my role within Homelessness Services and I vividly remember thinking, ‘I’ve got to go and do something, I can’t sit at home and watch the world go by.’ Initially the full risks were unknown. In the healthcare sector we had no masks or PPE (personal protective equipment) at the start and many NHS staff members lost their own lives helping others. When the risks emerged, as a nurse I went against the UK government’s advice to stay home to protect the NHS and save lives. I left my home to be on the NHS front line and help save lives. My wife and family were supportive and it also helped having a very nice garden shed to spend time in!

For how long did you return to frontline nursing?

For about one year from the start of the Covid-19 pandemic. Some months I would do three or four shifts, other months I’d do one or two shifts.

As an Army officer, how did your faith help and sustain you during the pandemic?

In true Salvation Army style, I rolled my sleeves up and got stuck in, because that’s what we do! In my head I kept replaying Psalm 143:8: ‘Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in you.’ Faith was a huge part of it and definitely got me through.

What did it feel like being back in healthcare again?

It was very strange. I hadn’t worked on a ward for five or six years, so to be handed a stack of nursing uniforms with an iPhone and an iPad was surreal. I had worked with pen and paper in my nursing previously!

A photo of Dan Holland in nurses scrubs, wearing a rainbow NHS lanyard

What stands out most in your memory of that time?

I think the quietness of it. I travelled along the M11 to the hospital for my shifts and there were no vehicles on the road and no visitors allowed in hospital. The silence and the lack of people in places that were usually so busy was really strange.

Looking back, what are your thoughts on the experience, and would you do it again?

Although it was a shocking and eye-opening experience, I would absolutely do it again.

And finally, what would you like to say to the NHS on its 75th anniversary?

From personal experience, I’m just so grateful for everything the NHS has done and continues to do. It’s an amazing institution. I have huge respect for the people who worked day in, day out, during the pandemic and those who are doing it today – they’re heroes.

Written by

A photo of Lyn Woods

Lyn Woods

Editorial Assistant

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