“During the NHS intensive care unit nightshifts, we were exposed to face-to-face, high intensity care of extremely unwell patients which required us to tap into skills that we had not used for years.”
As part of Nuffield Health’s support to the NHS during the COVID-19 pandemic, Dr Unnati Desai and Dr Kim Goldin both temporarily swapped their roles within Primary Care at Nuffield Health to support the NHS intensive care nursing teams at University College London Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (UCLH). They tell us about their experiences:
Unnati and Kim, why did you both choose to support the NHS?
We both had several reasons why we chose to support the NHS. Some were personal and others professional. Given our roles within the clinical senior leadership team at Nuffield Health, we were very conscious of the impact this pandemic was having on the NHS. Not only in terms of the resources available, but importantly on the psychological and health consequences for our NHS colleagues. We both felt it necessary to try and support the NHS frontline teams as our clinical roles within Nuffield Health were not frontline during the first wave of the pandemic. Independent sector primary care has been busy for both of us over the last year. The work we did was remote GP consultations, and clinical leadership to support the charity, which on a personal level, neither of us felt was enough. We both volunteered to be mental health first aiders for our clinical colleagues at Nuffield Health, and wanted to extend the support we offered into the NHS in whatever capacity they needed.
Tell us about the roles you both did in the NHS? What do you enjoy about it?
We both decided to take up any role needed within the NHS and not just offer to do work that we were used to doing. This was anything from clinical tasks, that as doctors we are used to, to the personal hygiene care of patients. During our shifts we also tapped into our mental health training and supported the NHS intensive care team by talking to them about how they were feeling and coping as a result of the challenging working conditions associated with the pandemic. It was good to be part of a face-to-face working team and use skills that we had not utilised during the earlier stages of the pandemic. We both felt grateful that we had the basic skills to take some pressure off the NHS intensive care team.
How are your roles with the NHS different to your role at Nuffield Health?
Polar opposites. Our roles at Nuffield Health include primary care consultations and leadership responsibilities. Since the start of the pandemic, most of this work has been remote and during normal working hours. During the NHS intensive care unit nightshifts, we were exposed to face-to-face, high intensity care of extremely unwell patients which required us to tap into skills that we had not used for years.
Is working for the NHS different to what you both expected?
We were totally unsure of what to expect when signing up for nightshifts within intensive care. We had no expectations, but a fair amount of anxiety and hence decided to do this together. The reality is, we went in with no recent intensive care competencies, but we were given the opportunity to re-learn old skills and be part of a team that faces any challenge with a smile. As GPs we do not often see people who are this severely unwell and going into intensive care was a stark reminder of just how unwell patients can get. The hardest part of this redeployment was the emotional challenge - how difficult the pandemic has been for families whose loved ones are so desperately unwell and often spend weeks in intensive care or pass away without having their family around them. The most important thing we both learnt on a personal level is that we are more resilient and better able to adapt than either of us thought possible.
What would you say to someone else at Nuffield Health who is thinking of supporting the NHS?
Just do It! Pushing yourself out of your comfort zone is always scary and hard, but personally, we both found working with our NHS frontline colleagues inspiring and motivating. We have carried this back into our working lives at Nuffield Health.
How are you both getting on with your NHS colleagues?
The NHS teams were so grateful for any help that was made was available to them. They were so supportive and mindful of what our skill sets were, but equally were happy to take the time to help us upskill in areas of need.