Working during the Coronavirus pandemic

I’ve been working in a hospital since 2011, I’ve been through countless training sessions, huge system upgrades and worked with many teams and colleagues over the years, but there’s something different about working during COVID that’s not like all the other big changes we’ve had and I don’t think it’ll ever change back.

Things have changed since COVID, mainly for the better, but equally I do miss ‘the old days’ (times before COVID).

During the peak of the pandemic, the corridors turned eerie. The hustle and bustle of the main corridor diminished, with patients being advised to avoid hospital unless it was an emergency, but even then, the local paper reported that attendance to the Emergency Department fell due to the pandemic.

Cafes and shops remained open, but very quiet. After all, they’re providing a vital service for the staff who are working to keep the place running. The volunteer run cafe’s pulled the shutters down, because the volunteers were in the category of people that needed to shield during the pandemic.

The remote monitoring service I help manage has come into its own, far sooner than we had predicted, but the pandemic has required us to bring forward our plans.

Patients with compatible devices are able to have their devices monitored from home, without having to attend the hospital. We’ve enrolled hundreds of patients onto this service during the COVID pandemic and despite concerns from the older patients and their tech worries, it’s great to see many of the older generation take advantage of the service. Hundreds more patients have been enrolled onto the service during lockdown meaning we are able to bring patients into clinic who we need to see, which means we’re able to ensure social distancing in the department.

We’ve always been keen on good hand hygiene and have been since the day I started. It’s drilled into you, quite rightly, by the Infection Control team. But since the Coronavirus pandemic hit, we’ve been extra cautious on the hygiene front. My hands have never felt so dry, it’s part of the course now, even more so than ever before. In our office, the cupboard formally used to store mugs, is now used to store PPE. Many of the chairs in the outpatients department are out of use, to enable social distancing to take place.

Masks aren’t just an important accessory in theatres these days, they’re an important accessory across the whole hospital. In corridors, in offices, anywhere where you can’t do social distancing. They’re also mandatory in most indoor spaces throughout the UK, including on public transport, in supermarkets, cinemas, museums. Essentially, if it’s inside, a mask is needed.

As the hospital begins to open up slowly, there’s still a sense of the unknown, a sense of uncertainty and perhaps even a sense of anxiety. Inpatients are getting COVID tests, some patients are getting tested for COVID before procedures, and asymptomatic staff are invited to be tested, voluntarily at regular intervals. Lockdowns have eased throughout much of the UK, with only local lockdowns taking place in places that see a spike in cases, meaning we’re seeing more patients come through the doors. The hospital is beginning to return to normal, but with additional changes still in place.

If the pandemic has taught us anything, it’s how important the healthcare system in the UK is, and how lucky we are to receive free healthcare at the point of contact and thereon. 

It’s shown that, no matter what your age, technology can play a big part in your care and you don’t need to be a technical whizz, or a young person, to take advantage of it. It’s proven that we can deliver the same quality health care both in hospital and remotely, and shown how local businesses, charities and other organisations can come together in a time of crisis to ensure the best care is delivered to patients and the staff who are looking after them are looked after themselves.

No one knows what the future holds, but hopefully we can move forward with the lessons learnt from the pandemic so far and get back to some kind of pre-COVID normality in the not too distant future.