An allied health professional (AHP) who stepped up to care for COVID-19 patients found walking away from the role just as hard as taking her first steps into the critical care unit.
Senior trauma operating department practitioner (ODP) Sam Davies-Eales supported critical care teams at Ipswich Hospital during the first and second waves of COVID-19.
After she found out there was a chance she may be redeployed as part of East Suffolk and North Essex Foundation Trust’s pandemic response, it was the very next day Sam found herself in Ipswich Hospital’s critical care unit.
Although she was apprehensive and found it “scary” at first, Sam, 28, threw herself into a role she would come to love.
She said: “Leaving something I was enjoying and where I was learning new skills and feeling challenged was hard.
“I learnt so much about the fundamentals of patient care – things like eye and mouth care, changing bed sheets, managing patient heart rhythms and generally how to cope with really sick patients.
“I loved learning all the new skills and I have brought it back to my role now. I feel like everyone should do a stint on critical care.”
After seeing some of the issues elderly patients have with pressure sores on critical care, Sam now takes steps to support her ward colleagues when a theatre patient is in recovery by using Medihoney on their sores.
She said: “It’s a more holistic approach. Doing that when a patient is coming to theatre can help to support the ward teams. It’s so simple to do and it can help to save nurses time when a patient is uncomfortable or in pain, so it can help their recovery too.”
As well as learning a host of new skills, Sam has also completed her advanced life support training course and now hopes to qualify as an instructor in future, something she wouldn’t have done if it wasn’t for her redeployment.
“So much benefit has come from it,” she said.
“I can’t say enough about the critical care nurses, they were so good, and I have to give credit to them all. I asked as many questions as I could and I took so many notes. I felt really well supported and that I could safely practice.”
After going back to her ODP role in July 2020, Sam continued to pick up extra shifts on the critical care unit to keep her skills up and support the team and friends she’d made along the way.
However, it wasn’t long until her colleagues and friends needed her help on the unit once again during the second wave. Sam was back on critical care from January to March this year.
This time round, she found that she was on of the more experienced redeployed healthcare professionals there and newly redeployed staff were learning from her.
“On reflection the first wave was a completely different experience,” Sam said.
“I had no idea what I was going into. I had to take a moment and just breathe. In a 12 hour shift you’d go from feeling quite positive, to it being the worst shift and then back to feeling super positive by the end.
“I never realised how quickly how you feel can change. It was emotionally scary and scary when I went back the second time, but I was more confident and hit the ground running then.
“I met so many people in different professions – dieticians, oncology and endoscopy nurses – who I would never have worked with or spoken to because of my normal role being in theatres.
“I can appreciate their roles now and they can appreciate mine – we were such a tight knit group.”
Penny Cason is Director of Allied Health Professionals (AHPs) at East Suffolk and North Essex NHS Foundation Trust, which runs Colchester and Ipswich hospitals.
She said: “AHPs are really open to developing themselves, pushing the boundaries and seeing how a different area works – Sam’s experience proves that, and it just shows the flexibility of AHPs.
“It also gives us an insight to enable us to be really innovative in how we develop AHPs roles at the Trust.”
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