NHS practitioner Lindsay explains what it’s like working on a COVID ward and how her experience on Operation Smile missions has helped her dealing with the pandemic.
Whilst attending our shift handover in the operating theatre department tearoom, I felt a strong sense of Déjà vu.
It reminded me so much of the morning meetings on an Operation Smile mission. The ‘buzz’, anticipation and the many questions being asked. Some familiar faces and lots of new ones.
As the virus became more prevalent in our workplace our shift patterns changed and our teams as well. We have been placed in teams of about 23 practitioners, Team A (that’s me!), B, C, D, E. Our shifts have also changed to 8-9 (13 hours) day and night. I recently was able to reduce my hours to part-time and so returning to these long difficult shifts is a challenge.
Just like an Operation Smile mission, when days can be long, we all keep each other going, support those who are tired or sad, play music (when appropriate) teach each other new skills, have breaks when possible and get through the shift with humour and kindness.
Safety is paramount, always. There are many human factors to consider so I am grateful for my H/F faculty training and Operation Smile for allowing me the opportunity to experience surgery in developing countries which has prepared me for this pandemic.
Instead of going into work feeling confident, I feel anxious, not knowing where I will be allocated. I am finding myself working with staff from other areas and I don’t know their strengths or weaknesses, just as they do not know mine.
We also are expected to cover shifts in ITU where full PPE is worn all day (12 hours). I am completely out of my comfort zone in this intensive environment. I admire the staff who work there. Wearing PPE for so many hours is very uncomfortable, hot and difficult to communicate.
To identify ourselves we use stickers or tape to write our name/role on and attach them to our gowns or visors, a practise close to my heart.
I bought this excellent idea back to my workplace after my very first mission to Vietnam in 2014, back in my own department this was met with varying degrees of acceptance. However, with Covid-19 and wearing PPE this has become the norm. I hope it continues! Knowing someone’s name and role can be vital in an emergency situation.
Operation Smile has taught me to ‘make things work’. To be practical and use my common sense, get creative and to use all of the expertise in the team whilst at all times being aware of the situation and keeping our practise safe. I feel that these skills have been honed in on during this pandemic.
I am finding my position at work very tough, it’s an unprecedented time. I feel emotional and often sad, but I am coping.
On the 12th of April, John my partner and I were to be married and I should be in the Maldives on our honeymoon now! Instead I am preparing for a night shift in emergency theatre.
If I can help to fight this virus I will. As a nurse there is no question about that.
I am so looking forward to an Operation Smile mission, I cannot tell you how much I miss it and my ‘OP Smile’ family.
I send love and best wishes to you all and take comfort in your support.