Former OCL swim teacher swaps pool for frontline

A former swimming teacher with Oldham Community Leisure (OCL) has swapped her goggles for PPE, working as a frontline nurse at Tameside Hospital during the coronavirus pandemic.

Shaw-based Jenna-Lea Alston studied for her degree at Manchester Metropolitan University and went on to get a job as an anaesthetic and recovery nurse working in operating theatres.

Jenna-Lea Alston working is Tameside Hospital during the coronavirus outbreak

Prior to becoming a nurse, Jenna-Lea, 26, worked as a swimming teacher at Oldham Leisure Centre.

She said: “I used to swim for Oldham Aquatics when I was younger. As I grew up I didn’t want to dedicate all my time to club training, but still loved being connected to the pool, so I decided to train as a teacher. I gained all my qualifications just before my 18th birthday.

“I just loved it. I loved the kids; I loved the classes. If a child is engaged in their learning, their confidence builds without them even realising, so I always made my lessons fun.

“I was still at school when I started with OCL and, eventually, I worked for them full-time teaching kids and adults, as well as doing private 1-2-1s with children who had special needs.

“It’s inspiring to think that I helped someone gain a valuable life skill that could potentially save their life.”

Jenna-Lea believes her qualification and teaching experience has helped with her confidence and her ability to manage behaviour, plus given her valuable experience of working with the general public.

She added: “As a student I was studying full time, doing 37.5 hours a week as a student nurse on placement and still teaching swimming. It’s only since I got my job at Tameside Hospital that I’ve had to give it up.”

“I’ve had days working in the emergency intubation team and the emergency tracheotomy team during the pandemic and have also worked nights on ICU to help out, doing 12.5-hour shifts.

“It’s really demanding, tiring work. Wearing PPE all day is so hot and means I get a sore nose. But I’m so proud of myself and my hardworking colleagues.

“Do I miss the kids and the pool? Absolutely! Swimming is a life skill and I got a buzz from teaching it.

“I’ve still got the qualifications and I’d love to go back one day. Working at Oldham Leisure Centre was like being part of a big family; I got so much life experience.”

Oldham Community Leisure (OCL) is a community benefit society responsible for the management, operation and development of 14 sports centres, swimming pools and synthetic pitches in Oldham.

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