Thrown In At The Deep End
Updated: Feb 21, 2021
Matt Williams, Oriel College
My first day as a doctor was not what I expected. Having expected to start in August in another part of the country I found myself starting as an interim FY1 in the Emergency Department at the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford with just a few days warning. Six years of medical school was finally done and despite my catastrophising that I’d be left by myself to manage cardiac arrests, I was grateful for the brilliant support I had from the other doctors in the team.
It quickly became clear that it wasn’t the medicine in the time of COVID that would be hard, it was discussions with patients and their relatives. Those with any respiratory symptoms are immediately streamed to the ‘Resp ED’ rather than ‘Non-Resp ED’, with an aim to reduce transmission of COVID-19 to asymptomatic individuals. I was struck by how scared many patients were by being sent to this area. One patient, the same age as myself, stopped in his tracks when he realised he was being, in his words: ‘put with all the coronavirus people’. Later, during a phone discussion with a relative, the wife of another patient was distraught to learn her husband was with the ‘COVID patients’ as she felt their 8 weeks of self-isolating from family and friends had all been wasted. I hadn’t fully appreciated how terrified some people are of catching this virus and how much of a role we as healthcare professionals have to play in trying to explain our systems and reassure their worries.
Despite my apprehension that A&E would look like the horrific pictures on the news the hospitals in Oxford were relatively well prepared. This is only the case through the heroic efforts from every member of the team and speaks volumes to the drive, commitment and resilience of all NHS staff.