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COVID-19 and Me: Pamela Dunbar

Released on - 15/12/2020

COVID-19 and Me: Pamela Dunbar

My name is Pamela Dunbar.  I qualified as an ODP in 2016 and worked at the Ayrshire Maternity Unit during the subsequent year, before moving to Manchester to work in anaesthetics at Salford Royal Hospital. Recently, I decided that I wanted to expand my skills and work in paediatrics, which prompted my move to Royal Manchester Children's Hospital in early 2020. It was very soon after starting here that we went through the first national lockdown.

This period caused much uncertainty for everybody; and perioperative staff were no exception. 

Fortunately, being based in a children's hospital meant that my colleagues and I had more time to prepare for caring for COVID-19 patients. Training stations and workshops were set up in my department while the intensive care units and wards in our neighbouring adult hospital were quickly filling up with COVID-19 patients. 

There was a very high demand for ventilators and critical care beds which led to our paediatric intensive care and recovery unit being transformed into a facility to treat adult COVID-19 patients. This required intense planning and advice from staff with critical care experience. Despite making preparations, we ended up not having to house any patients in paediatric theatre recovery. However, theatre staff did provide support to our critical care colleagues for a couple of weeks around Easter time when we had our first peak. 

I was particularly apprehensive about being redeployed to ICU as I had only ever worked in theatre. There can often be plenty of confusion outside of the perioperative environment about the role of an ODP. This can be frustrating; however, I found informing the critical care nurses what skills I was competent in allowed me to be utilised most appropriately. Some of the jobs I did included helping to re-position patients, suctioning endotracheal tubes/ tracheostomies, taking samples from arterial lines, and completing observation charts and fluid balance charts. 

Thankfully I did not feel pressured to do anything I was not competent at doing. 

Lots of adjustments had to be made in our theatre department. Like every other hospital, elective operations were cancelled in response to the crisis the NHS was facing. We had to alter our shifts to fulfil the needs of our department at these unprecedented times. Elective surgery has reconvened now, but we have not returned to normal as we still wear PPE, ensure patients are swabbed for COVID-19, obey "clean air time" protocols following aerosol generating procedures and put extra measures in place to ensure the safety of our patients.

I found the most challenging part was trying to perform my duties whilst wearing full PPE. It  left me dehydrated, fatigued and would often cause headaches. However, over time, we have all become accustomed to it and have learnt to accept the additional challenges we now face in order to protect ourselves, our colleagues and our patients.

The love and support the NHS and its staff have received this year from the public has been overwhelming and truly humbling. Many individuals have performed extraordinary acts of kindness and generosity to try and support front line workers through this challenging time, for which I will always be grateful.

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