COVID-19 and Me: Sophie Westmoreland
Released on - 16/09/2020
COVID-19 and Me: Sophie Westmoreland
My name is Sophie Westmoreland. I was approaching the end of my third year when the pandemic hit. I qualified as a registered practitioner in July from the University of Portsmouth.
2020 is a year to remember! COVID-19 hit us hard. We were pulled out of placement very suddenly and left wondering if, after all the hard work we’d put in over the past three years, we’d be qualifying – and if we did, when would we qualify and what would we be walking into?
We were approaching that finish line and finally starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel and then it all changed. We went from wondering which hospital and speciality we were going to choose to wondering what was going to happen to our career.
We had our last lecture together but at the time we had no idea it was our last. After that, some of our lectures were cancelled and others were moved online. The online learning was so new, it took some time to adapt.
Tackling the dissertation without being able to have face to face discussions with the university lecturers or work alongside colleagues became really difficult. My anxiety and stress levels increased, I was so worried that I wouldn’t complete it and that I wouldn’t qualify.
Thankfully, the university lecturers were excellent and provided us with tremendous support. Just like us, they were thrown into the situation with no warning and no training. They had to learn how to deliver lectures online and how to help us get to the finishing line, with very little knowledge of what was happening and no firm answers. Weekly meetings were initiated to deliver support and for us to discuss any issues we had, university-related or not.
I was extremely fortunate to be able to keep up some skills as an HCA within A&E, whilst placement was suspended.
It was daunting, I hadn’t worked in any area of the hospital other than theatres. I had no idea what to expect, what was expected of me and how different everything was, due to the pandemic.
On my first day I felt so lost and so out of place. However, I learnt new skills, for example, I’m more confident in using a twelve lead ECG, within anaesthetics we mainly use a three lead. Furthermore, I learnt how to speak to a different set of patients. Patients we deal with are scared but they’re usually aware that they’re coming into a hospital to have surgery because their surgery is scheduled. However, within A&E patients are at a different level of scared, they didn’t start their day expecting to be sitting in A&E.
I was constantly scared but tried my hardest to hide it from the patients. I usually love putting on my scrubs, and excited to see what the day would bring. I never thought that I’d be scared to put on my scrubs. There were a few occasions where I thought of giving up, leaving the scrubs and trading them in for something else. Fear does funny things, phone calls with friends and family with them reassuring me was one of the main reasons I carried on. After all, it won’t last forever, and I’ll be back in theatres doing what I love without the fear of COVID-19. So I managed to pick myself up – after all, I haven’t gone through three years of hard work to give it all up now!
Additionally, after a few months, I managed to undertake my role as a student within a private sector hospital, allowing me to qualify. It was worrying when I started there. I hadn’t stepped foot in an operating theatre for months, everything was different, and I felt so out of practice! I was scared and anxious I had no idea what I was walking into.
Learning how to don on and off, and learning how to communicate with my patients in a different way were definitely my two biggest challenges. Wearing full PPE makes talking to patients more difficult, the mask we wear makes speaking harder, so attempting to reassure them when you can barely hear what is being said is difficult. The mask itself is painful, it digs into your face.
It took a while to get used to, it still seems very different; however, my new colleagues were excellent at reassuring me that it wasn’t the normal they were used to either and that it was okay to feel overwhelmed. I felt supported and constantly reassured, they have been a huge influence on me getting through and they play a huge part in why I managed to cross that finish line.
Several students have been less fortunate than me. They’re still waiting to get into placement so they can finish their outcomes to allow them to graduate. They haven’t been in placement since March and their anxiety and worry about going back is increasing because they feel so out of practice.
The COVID-19 Pandemic has had many challenges but, on a positive note, it has shown me how much support there is within the NHS, how everyone looks out for each other and that we are all one big team. It taught me that I’m strong. I learnt that even if I walk into the hospital and put my scrubs on terrified, I can smile, put on a brave face and continue to do my job. It has shown me what an incredible profession I am joining.
I am proud to say that I am an ODP who graduated during the global pandemic!