A view on Covid from the Coalface
So here we are - November 2021, tiptoeing our way towards a more balanced life, slightly less conscious of the huge cloud which has hung over all of us since March 2020.
The very fact that we can now be with our family and friends, go to work and education, socialise and maybe even sing, is of course thanks to an unprecedented vaccination programme but also to the extraordinary efforts of our Healthcare workers. As a society we asked them to go to the frontline of a war while most of us hid at home with Netflix.
To gain a better understanding of what life was like, is like, for a frontline nurse, I interviewed an experienced I.C.U Nurse. She gave me a clear indication of the feelings she experienced, as she suited up everyday during Covid 19. I found her answers very gripping.
How long have you been working in ICU?
I have been a Senior I.C.U Nurse for 20 years
What was the closest thing to Covid that you experienced previously?
The swine flu pandemic of 2009 could have been difficult but it was of course nothing like this
How did the pandemic impact your work?
The very early stages were spent planning. The HSE seemed to have an endless budget with new equipment arriving constantly. We always had one isolation room but quickly set up two temporary isolation pods without them being as well equipped. I suppose that they did the best they could in difficult circumstances. Now they are being renovated to have three permanent rooms going forward. Staff had to be recruited and upskilled quickly to deal with I.C.U patients. We made plans on how to ventilate patients outside of I.C.U. PPE was of course a huge issue. Masks had only been worn previously in the case of a specific airborne infection. Full PPE is now the norm for us and it seems strange that masks were not a guideline for everyone at the beginning of the pandemic. A lot of training was done both in PPE use and in infection control. Thankfully with a bit of rationing we didn't run out of PPE in those early days. The guidelines have changed so often over the time that we are constantly evolving and it has been a huge learning curve for everyone.
How did you prepare for the pandemic and did you feel adequately prepared for the pandemic?
When the first covid patient arrived we felt a sense of panic, planning is one thing but reality is very different. Later on of course it became our norm, our day to day work.
We are a small I.C.U. with a 1:1 Nurse/Patient ratio and to cover all shifts it means we have around 30 nurses and a few Clinical Nurse Managers employed in total. There is also 1 or more Health Care Assistant per shift. All patients are treated as Covid patients until they test negative.
Did you experience any staffing issues during the pandemic?
We lost some experienced staff with underlying medical conditions or through pregnancy. We lost a number of familiar staff. It meant that a lot of new staff were recruited with much less experience. It was very hard on them, particularly the foreign staff. Family members may have been sick at home. It was hugely stressful. It was the worst time to join healthcare. There wasn't a lot of support available for new staff. Some had real problems finding accommodation and they couldn't bring their families to join them as may have been originally planned. We tried to support them as best we could but our system and culture is different both inside and outside of work.
All our I.C.U beds were full in January as they are now. Working permanently in PPE is hot and hard. It affects communication a lot with both colleagues and patients as well of course as your own vision.
Proning patients was a huge new issue. It takes a minimum of 6 staff to do it properly. It is a complex procedure which can take 30 minutes including the preparation involved. Training on ventilators was also very important including for non I.C.U staff.
How did the pandemic impact your family life?
It was very stressful and unsettling. The fear of bringing home the virus to family, particularly elderly parents and people with underlying conditions. Showering after work (at work) became a new norm. I felt a sense of isolation from friends and neighbours because of my role but I also experienced a lot of goodwill towards healthcare workers. The sense of camaraderie was strong....We had free pizza delivered to the hospital!!. It was hard trying to help my children when they were not in school. My husband was also gone to his workplace. We were lucky that our kids are old enough to cope. I found sleeping after night shifts even harder than normal.
It was very scary when healthcare workers died from Covid. It really affects your mind to hear that. With the constant focus on Covid in the media, there was no escape at all.
We really felt for the relatives of sick patients with the limitations on visits. Communicating with them over the phone was not easy. Sometimes they took their frustrations out on us.
What have you learned from the Pandemic?
We do pull together strongly as a team. We are very adaptable but we also do get burned out and we need ongoing support. We learned huge new skills and the importance of communication was never greater. We are hugely resilient as a profession and throughout the pandemic we continued to do what is best for the patient no matter the circumstances.
In hindsight, is there anything you would do differently?
We should always be aware of the need to give each other credit and to look after ourselves. We need to prioritise self-care as it is in our instincts to put everyone else's needs first both at work and at home.
We are forever grateful for the work of our amazing healthcare workers. We are proud to recruit healthcare professionals for private and public health organisations. If you are looking to hire healthcare professionals for your organisation, email us on firstname.lastname@example.org
Renata has been working with FRS Recruitment since 2005. She is an experienced Recruitment Professional with more than fourteen years experience recruiting across a spectrum of industries in Ireland. Main expertise in the area of Healthcare and Allied Health recruitment for private and public hospitals and healthcare organisations.View Posts