Critical Care with Covid-19: My Co-Workers are Awesome.

Photo by Madeleine Kohler on Unsplash

I really cannot emphasise how amazing the non-ITU staff working with us are being. They didn’t sign on for this, they’re working way out of their comfort zone and they are doing an absolutely cracking job. Just to put it into perspective — a new nurse in ITU, no matter how experienced outside of ITU spends six weeks supernumerary to learn the ropes. That means as an extra member of staff, not counted as an actual nurse. Virtually all their practice is supervised for at least the first couple of weeks. My standard line when asked about the ventilator in the first 3 weeks is “Don’t worry about it yet! Look at the stuff you know!”. Also on my greatest hits for baby nurses: “Don’t be so hard on yourself — it takes years to learn this stuff!” and my personal favourite: “Are they still alive? Yes? Then you did great!”. I am aware that this might make me sound a touch soulless. It’s intended to lift scared and highly stressed nurses’ spirits and you know what they say: what doesn’t kill you…gives you a lot of unhealthy coping mechanisms and a sick sense of humour.

The non-ITU nurses have been pitched in head first with very little preparation (They got an area induction and partnered with an ITU nurse when we weren’t too busy and taken through some of the basics). Otherwise the ITU staff are teaching as much as we can on the job. Unsurprisingly the first few months in ITU is anxiety-inducing for all of us, let alone in the middle of a pandemic. If there’s a serious problem with the breathing tube, you have about two minutes before the possibility of your patient sustaining a brain injury. ITU is just about the only place to get experience of caring for these. Despite this, they are getting stuck in, doing everything that they can to help, learning at an incredible pace and being fabulous. ITU could not run without them at the moment.

It’s also not easy on the ITU nurses, primarily because you feel like you want to be in three places at once. There’s a lot of pressure on the senior nurses and co-ordinating is a challenge, but I think the people who have it the hardest are the relatively junior ITU nurses. They have less experience, are generally less confident and their experience in teaching tends to be limited. They’ve been expected to step up, teach other people the skills some of them have only just learnt themselves, alongside a serious jump in workload. And they are doing absolutely brilliantly. Words don’t really cover the admiration I have for my colleagues right now. The whole team is working so hard. I’ve had Consultants covering the nurses’ breaks, physiotherapists helping to wash patients, everyone really going above and beyond. We do have the odd day when we want to pull each other’s heads off…but generally we are really pulling together. We’re doing everything we can to look after our patients and each other. I’m really proud.

That said, I am looking forward to seeing some other human beings before long!

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Kat Hargraves

Critical Care Sister, MSc Advanced Practice, Really not a morning person.