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Pandemic Diary: Stepping into the White Coat
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Pandemic Diary: Stepping into the White Coat

In my last post, Pandemic Diary: Student Doctor to Covid Wards, I reflected about one fateful day that marks the journey from acting as a Student Doctor to practicing medicine in a Pandemic. Today, I’m sharing the big moments from stepping into the “White Coat” and celebrating the wins!

30th March 2020

Today marks my first day back into hospital since the Pandemic announcement, and my first day of employment in the NHS. In order to support the NHS response, my medical school provided us with the voluntary option to take on Pre-F1 employed roles during what would have been our final placement of the year.

As I pulled my scrubs on this morning, I wondered how much hospital life had changed in the last few weeks. The online prep videos from Doctors in the Trust were preparing us for rapid changes in practice within the hospital. I vividly remember a Consultant telling us, “Things change over night.” The nerves quickly settled as I was met with familiar faces in our senior support team and my fellow colleagues. It was refreshing to be out of my small studio apartment and to interact with people, albeit at a distance. It’s not how I expected to be starting my career but it was time to step up. After all, what else had I been preparing for?

27th April 2020

It’s been approximately 4 weeks since I started working on a Covid ward. The team huddle for a briefing each morning to discuss the changing guidelines so that we can ensure that we are giving our patients the best care from the evolving knowledge base. Shifts are busy and tiring, allowing for short (and often late) lunches.

The cohort of patients that my team are caring for have tested positive for covid infections and have other underlying medical conditions, which often need treating as well. Many of these patients would not tolerate aggressive treatment beyond ward-level, so we provide the best medical care here in hope the will improve.

The PPE consists of a surgical mask (that soon feels stifling), a plastic apron, and visor. One of my very unwell patients, in a confused state, tried to remove my visor as I took bloods from [him/her]. As I was holding a needle in [his/her] arm, I accepted there was little I could in that moment. I imagine it must be disorientating to be a patient in hospital at this time; almost like being treated by aliens with the PPE kit!

The combination of the intense workload and dramatic changes in my routine outside of hospital takes its toll; as it has for many of us in some form over this period. I think the greatest toll has been psychological: accepting what would have been will now not happen, missing my family & friends, the minimal social interaction outside of work, the limitations of a small studio room, and lack of gym classes to let off some steam.

Regardless, I wake up, pull my scrubs on, ready for the working day.

4th May 2020

Recently I’ve moved wards from the Covid (red) wards to non-covid (green) wards. Many of the patients that I cared for during my work on the covid wards are now being transferred to green wards. Some of these had days where it was uncertain whether they would survive the night. I am relieved and grateful to see them make this transition. As I call their families to give them more reassuring news, the conversations feel easier as we have built a rapport over the telephone. Hospital visitors are no longer allowed on-site during the outbreak and so many patients haven’t seen their families for weeks to months. I remember this on my ward rounds with senior team as we take the time to sit by their bedside and listen. We are all missing the support of our loved ones, but new ties and communities are forming.

29th May 2020

Today marks my final clinical day in Hospital during Medical School.

Six years of passion, dedication and hard-work.

A number of patients that I cared for during my time on covid-red wards have been discharged to their families; including those who recovered in ITU. The greatest lesson I have learnt during this time has been patience. It has been physically hard and emotionally challenging. Through the challenges, I hold onto these special moments and wins. It was emotional clapping their exit from the ward thinking about our time caring for them as a team. I wouldn’t change my career at all. I am firm in my decision to become a Doctor and with that realisation, I feel ready.

8th June 2020

It’s been a rollercoaster of experiences.

It’s been six years in two renowned teaching institutions with a transition coming of stepping into a doctors shoes, but through out there has been one attitude ” I will win, it may not be immediate but it is definite.” 

Celebrating one step towards the future, because all progress is significant.

Love, Dr Natalia

©Beyond the White Coat 2021
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