Cllr Patrick Barr gets strength from 'camaraderie' at work during Covid-19

WORKING ON THE FRONT LINE

As the peak of Covid-19 grips the country, life is very surreal. As I write this, 7,978 people have lost their lives to the virus. I’m on the frontline looking after some Covid-19 patients. Many of us would view looking after a Covid-19 positive patient in a healthcare setting as their worst nightmare come true. I see it as an absolute privilege. It is just another day as a nurse, delivering care to people in real need – and one of the reasons I get up in the morning.

Everyone is living their own experience of this pandemic, a once in a lifetime experience we hope. This is my attempt at giving you an insight into my experience on the front line in the NHS during this time.

A day in the life

I’m not an ICU nurse and I don’t manage ICU wards but patients do get Covid-19. It’s even more of a concern when they are already unwell. My day starts in a meeting at 7.30am with my Senior Ward Sister to discuss patients being admitted that day: in-patients displaying symptoms of Covid-19. We then discuss bed capacity, nurses on duty and skill mix. I liaise with staff to discussing any concerns they have on the ward, checking on their welfare and hopefully supporting them. Positivity, togetherness, high spirits and a can-do attitude are infectious amongst my team.

I don a surgical mask, visor, gloves and apron and reassure the patient it’s to protect them. If I manage to make them smile, then that’s a bonus. I change gloves and apron for every bay. I change the mask less often – a surgical mask is effective for up to an hour but after an hour, or when it becomes moist or comes away from the face, it’s ineffective. I then monitor the ward reminding all staff, nurses, physios, doctors and consultants to practise social distancing. It’s very hard to establish this as all the wards are heaving with activity first thing in the morning and the place is rammed.

Mid-morning the madness subsides and, in recent weeks, most days another patient develops symptoms of Covid-19 and our focus turns to them: getting them swabbed and giving them the support they need, both emotionally and physically.

Strength from camaraderie and belonging

For the duration of my working day I’m in a bubble. There is a huge sense of camaraderie on the wards and, frequently for me, it’s my absolute comfort zone and the most reassuring place to be. When you’re in it together and all are working towards one goal, it gives one a real sense of belonging.

Each night when I have downtime and a chance to reflect, my thoughts are with those who are struggling with the social isolation, experiencing increased anxiety and depression. Be reassured: we are all in this together.

The most poignant moment of each week is when the #clapforcarers occurs on a Thursday evening at 8pm. Listening to the sea of clapping should give us all strength. It does that to me.

The effect of not following social distancing

Richard and I went for our hour walk around Chiswick last Saturday. I did not see particularly good social distancing being implemented. Chiswick is not immune! I saw groups of people talking in close proximity, sunbathing and having picnics. Chiswick High Road was certainly quieter but still quite busy. Maintaining two meters social distancing with everyone who does not live in your household is extremely important. Remember without social distancing one person with Covid-19 can infect a further 1,093 people after six weeks, as opposed to 127 cases after six weeks with social distancing measures.

The facts about wearing masks

I also observed people wearing surgical masks. It is important to remember that there is no need to wear a mask unless you are unwell (with symptoms of Covid-19) or you are looking after a person with suspected Covid-19 infection. The masks can give you a false sense of protection and can be a source of infection. Wash your hands before you put the mask on, avoid touching the mask as it could become contaminated. If you do touch the mask wash your hands. As I mentioned above, surgical masks last for up to an hour and are ineffective if moist or no longer grip your face. At those points you must change it. Most masks are for single use only and are not to be reused.

Essential prevention

The most effective prevention method is to wash your hands for 20 seconds with soap and water frequently. Practice social distancing when you have to leave your house for essential travel, health reasons or work (if you can’t work form home).

This is an Easter none of us planned for. Over this period, take time out to pick up the phone and call someone you know who is on their own to reduce the anxiety or depression they may be experiencing due to social isolation.

On a lighter note, the Easter bunny is immune to the virus so have a Happy Easter!

Councillor Patrick Barr