Intensive Care Team
Gayle is a Senior Sister with Worthing Hospital’s single, Intensive Care team. She is responsible for a unit, ordinarily made up of 12 critical care beds. The intensity of the Covid-19 virus tested the team to work under exceptional physical and emotional conditions.
In February 2020, team members were individually fitted for personal protective equipment (PPE). “We all had our PPE masks fitted and within weeks, our unit was full of extremely sick patients. We didn’t expect Covid to be what we experienced.”
Colleagues joked that they were putting on their ‘armour’ but for Intensive Care nurse Rachel, that’s exactly what it is. “The PPE takes 5-10 minutes and includes a full length gown, one pair of surgical gloves, a tight fitting face mask, a hairnet, a visor and a second pair of gloves. Just putting it on is hot work.” The team checked each other’s PPE to make sure they were safe before entering the Covid area, “I count myself lucky to work with such an amazing group of people.”
The ITU team dealt with a situation advancing at an alarming rate, during 12 and a half hour shifts and in full PPE. “The team is fantastic, it’s a nice small team, we’re like a family.” However, they felt like they were fire fighting, “we just put our heads down and dealt with the problems that the patients were presenting to us. It was like being in military mode. “
Additional ITU capacity was needed to manage the increase in Covid cases. “We’re not a bad sized team, but there were so few of us.” Theatre, ward and paediatric teams supported the ITU team with the rising numbers of patients.
For Rachel, connecting patients and their loved ones when visits were suspended was the most challenging part of her day. “No training that can prepare you for the emotions felt when listening to relatives desperately pleading for their loved ones to get better – via an iPad. I found this extremely distressing.”
Gayle reflects on what her team experienced on the front line of the pandemic. “This isn’t something that is going to go away but we’ve built incredible resilience. Every other ITU in the country has gone through this. We’re not on our own. We all go home thinking about the patients that have died but also the people we saved.”