Personal protective equipment is extremely uncomfortable and stressful to wear for 13 hours a day.
Middlesex University staff from the Department of Health and Education have been working on the frontline in hospitals and community care roles during the pandemic.
They have spoken about the extreme challenges they face working in intensive care on the NHS frontline during the COVID-19 crisis.
Orla Hillary, a Clinical Skills Lecturer, has been working in intensive care has described her experience where she said the unit has had double its normal capacity of patients and the stress of “walking around in full PPE for 13 hours a day.”
Orla described how working in the new plastic suits, which were included as an alternative to gowns in recent Public Health England guidance, are extremely uncomfortable to wear.
With COVID-19 patients in intensive care for more than a month, one of the hardest things is knowing these patients are alone with no family around according to Orla; Around 120 helpers including physios and speech and language therapists have now been drafted in to support staff.
“Everyone is just doing their best to keep these patients alive.” said Orla.
Cariona Flaherty, a Senior Lecturer in Adult Nursing and Programme Leader for Nursing Associates, has been working shifts in an intensive care unit.
The unpredictability of the patients’ well-being has led to immense pressure among the staff.
Cariona said “The staff are scared; the patients are scared and you’re seeing things you never want to see in an intensive care unit because you want people to get better.”
Cariona explained how relatives are not allowed onto the wards because of the risk of infection, but staff are allowing them to communicate with loved ones through iPads.
Laura Whitehead, a Lecturer in Adult Nursing and Programme leader, BSc Nursing (Adult) Apprenticeship route, has been working bank shifts in Critical Care.
“I don’t think we’ve ever had these many patients who are unwell for such a lengthy period of time.”
Laura agreed the virus hits every age group not just people with underlying health conditions, emphasising why social-distancing is important for all members of the community. Laura believes that some people have been “blasé” about social-distancing and the severity of the virus among those affected.
“The story in intensive care is they are still very, very sick.”
Orla, Cariona, and Laura all say they have been heartened by the Clap for Carers every Thursday and hope the goodwill for the NHS continues in future.
Cariona said: “People are incredibly appreciative of everything the NHS is doing and I just hope the appreciation doesn’t stop when this is over.”
Orla added: “There are many people out there who genuinely want to support us and it’s really nice that they are acknowledging the NHS and going out there to recognise we’re putting our lives on the line.”