Meet Mandie: Camp nurse

Meet Mandie: Camp nurse

Mandie Pocock is a Community Staff Nurse from Dorset who is working with Care4Calais to provide basic nursing care to the Refugees in the camp. We have a First Aid Caravan that is stored at the warehouse when not in use but towed into camp when needed. We have a locked container at the warehouse which stores donations.

The people who find themselves stranded in France deserve the very best care that we can give them despite the appalling conditions and the challenges of administering healthcare in a foreign country in foul situation.

I am a Community Staff Nurse working in Wiltshire. I spent three days in Calais in October working from some 1st aid caravans. Whilst I appreciated the conditions and restraints imposed on aid workers in France I was concerned about working under such conditions and how that would impact on patient care and my own registration. I identified a need and wanted to create a service that could be provided safely, easily and effectively and work in conjunction with MSF (Doctors Without Borders). There is a hospital in Calais and MSF are in the Camp itself so access to professional services is available.

I returned to England with an idea of taking another caravan to Calais. One was generously donated by a family in Southampton. It was unsuitable for a family but perfect for a 1st aid centre. It was collected, cleaned and stocked and taken to France with the support of Care4Calais within three weeks. The caravan is stored at the Care4Calais warehouse when not being used. There is a locked container to store donations and a budget for specific items that are needed. The caravan works best with two people as the space is not huge.

The work is simple in many respects but does require medical knowledge to recognise when people are ill and how to deal with potentially serious conditions.

In terms of diagnostic equipment we have a

  • Tympanic thermometer.
  • B.P machine
  • Pulse oximeter
  • BGM with lancets, strips and test fluid
  • Stethoscope (no need to wear it).
  • Otoscope
  • Urinalysis strips

Wound Care

Good knowledge of wound care and familiarity with Aseptic Technique is essential. Good practice of support bandaging is also required.

The principle is to keep things really simple and not overcomplicate. Language is a big barrier and it is impossible to explain contraindications and allergic reactions to medications or dressings. Consistency, observation and monitoring progress of a patient is not practical so simplicity is essential.

Using a dressing pack and following the principles of Aseptic Technique we use bottled water or normal saline to clean ALL wounds and apply Inadine as a primary dressing with gauze and appropriate secondary dressing (bandage or cosmopore/mepore). We use Kaltostat and pressure to stop bleeding. We don’t use plasters or active dressings. Changing dressings daily to observe wounds is advised when possible

There are stitch cutters available if needed but only if you are qualified and registered to use them, otherwise patients must be directed to MSF or the hospital in Calais.

Coughs and colds

A big part of the day is spent treating coughs and colds. We give 10mls of cough medicine in shot glasses that go into a bucket of water and Milton for washing at the end of the day. We use a piece of gauze with some vicks vapour rub and apply it to the neck. We apply a wrist band made out of tubular bandage soaked in Olbas oil. We give tissues, cough sweets and lip balm.
We cut all Paracetamol into 2 tablets to ensure that people understand “2 now, wait 4 hours, 2 more.” We have Ibuprofen as an anti inflammatory analgesic, again cut into “2 tablets  6hrly and after food” is the instruction. We don’t give other cold and flu remedies as they sometimes contain active ingredients and overdosing is easy. If a patient looks particularly unwell and needs abx, take obs and send with note to MSF for possible antibiotics.


We advise drinking plenty of water and give rehydration sachets (dioralyte) and antiseptic hand gel. Refer to MSF if suffering more than 3 days.


Scabies is a big problem and one that we are struggling to treat effectively. At present we give anti itch cream and refer to MSF. There is talk about setting up a service to provide showers, treatment and new bedding etc but this is yet to happen.

I have never felt threatened in the camp or in any danger. and there is always a crowd of men who would protect if the need arose. I systematically lock my car and keep valuables well hidden. I do this because if my things were stolen, people would be very angry and the desperate person who had just taken advantage of an opportunity would suffer if caught.

It is a peculiar place, full of contradictions. It is harrowing and uplifting at the same time. The hardest thing is not being able to do enough and turning people away. The feelings of inadequacy are huge. The stories of war and death and destruction are horrific. The smiles, generosity and resilience of people is heart warming. I try to practice empathy, love and fairness and hope for a better life one day

We work to assist MSF so after seeing a patient, record date & time, your name, your qualification, your contact number, observations, any patient history you have gained and possible diagnoses and send patient with your note to MSF or Hospital.

We do not give antibiotics or other prescribed medication.

If you would like to know more about how you can volunteer in the first aid Caravan, please send an email to [email protected].

We very much hope to hear from you soon.

About Care4Calais

Care4Calais was founded by a group of volunteers with the sole aim of supporting the people of the Calais refugee camps, providing fresh meals, warm clothing, heating and important legal and medical support.

We are not politicians – we are people like you who simply believe that every human has the right to be treated in a fair and dignified way.

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