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March 2020, we were on an emergency footing and bracing ourselves for the worst, so my role as a Pain Nurse Specialist was no longer a priority. Supporting people’s failing organs, namely their lungs was everyone’s priority. Almost two years after my last shift as a Staff Nurse in a High Dependency Unit I found myself rapidly up-skilling to work in a Covid Intensive Care Unit. The normal rules no longer applied, the onus to be deemed as competent at providing intensive care was on me not the clinical educator nor education coordinator. There was a sense of urgency and a sense of uncertainty for sure!

Covid Front Line WorkerBeing a key worker at what was to be the first peak of the pandemic felt good overall, I was able to make a positive contribution in what had become a mad world. It also meant that I wasn’t going mad at home, locked down, surrounded by news stories and public health messages. Actually going to work was very strange, the capital city was like a ghost town, like the morning after hogmanay but without the sense of celebration. The bus to work was busier that I’d have liked and my reusable fabric face mask felt like a poor substitute to the PPE I had to wear at work.

It just so happened that spring 2020 was a warm one, the PPE made working in Covid ICU a sweaty experience despite the air conditioning. On top of my scrubs I had to don a pair of gloves, a fluid-resistant gown, another pair of gloves, a scrub hat, a tight-fitting (FFP3) mask and a visor. Although we didn’t run out of PPE and it all met the required specifications, the quality of it varied wildly, some of the fluid-resistant gowns made me feel like I was in one of those bags that you can put a chicken in before you put it in the oven.

A production line of Covid ICU staff - old & new but who’s who? We all looked like actors in an apocalyptic film, never before had we all looked so uniform, yet never before was our workforce so diverse. The same could be said of our patients, lying on their front with a tube hanging out their mouth, all ten in our base lined up in a row in their beds. There was one thing missing – visitors!

I can only speak about my experience of being a key worker in Covid ICU in our capital city; overall it was really positive. Don’t get me wrong, in thirteen years as a Registered Nurse I have never seen so many relatively fit and well people so ill and I’ll always remember my time as a Nurse in Covid ICU. Many of us have learned many lessons throughout this global pandemic, two of mine are, the importance of wearing a disposable name badge and the importance of knowing your workforce and what you can reasonably expect from them.

For further information visit our Covid 19 Legal Hub.

Blog by Gordon B. McFatter UNISON Lothian Health Branch Member

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