DAY IN THE LIFE - Covid-19 Frontline Radiographer in Portlaoise hospital

Michelle Roberts, Clinical Specialist CT Radiographer

Reporter:

Michelle Roberts, Clinical Specialist CT Radiographer

DAY IN THE LIFE - Covid-19 Frontline Radiographer in Portlaoise hospital

Michelle Roberts, Clinical Specialist CT Radiographer

Michelle RobertsClinical Specialist CT Radiographer

7:30 am

The alarm goes off, up and shower, and get a fresh uniform packed in a bag for work.

I have to get three children up, dressed, teeth brushed and ready for the babysitter who arrives at 8:30am - this week is the first week I have had childcare.

My husband was minding them while I was at work initially and then he would go in to work on my days off, or in the evenings when I got home from work (he works in professional internal and external sanitisation and external cleaning services).

I prepare the school work for the three children for the day ahead, laying out the relevant books open on the exact pages, logon to the various websites, and leave notes about the times of various Zoom meetings for music lessons and classroom chats that the kids need to be logged on to during the day. I grab my coffee and go.

9:00 am

I change into my scrubs uniform at work and check the computer system for all the new inpatient and A&E CT orders placed overnight. In the CT department we quickly had to restructure our appointment system in preparation for the arrival of COVID-19 patients.

We decided early on to defer all outpatient appointments, with the exception of extremely urgent cases.

Our list of patients for the day is written on a whiteboard and divided into COVID-19 and non-COVID cases so there are no errors, in regard to PPE.

Every patient order is checked for all the routine requirements and now for infection control status of query-Covid.

When a query-Covid patient is to come for CT, the Porter must ‘don’ the appropriate PPE and the waiting area is cleared of other patients.

The radiographer prepares the CT scan room by removing all equipment that is mobile. All other static equipment is covered in plastic sheeting.

A bucket of Acticlor is prepared for the clean down process once the patient has left.

The CT Radiographers decides which radiographer is to ‘don’ the PPE for the patient contact. These roles are alternated.

All staff in contact with the patient wait outside the scan room (and CT control room), until the scan is complete.

When the patient leaves, the room is left for a specific length of time to allow droplets rest before both radiographers and the porter help in the wash down of the scanner, the room and floor.

The scanning of one COVID-19 patient is a lengthy process and can take up to 1 hr from start to finish - which in normal circumstances would take 10 minutes. It is a very slow process, and was very stressful in the beginning.

Like everything, we have adapted to the situation and it’s now more of a norm.

11am- Quick tea break

12pm

More patients through the department and we juggle COVID-19 and non-COVID cases. I need to check the lab results on the system to see if patients are positive or negative.

In the early days when negative results were seen, in accordance with HSPC guidelines, I would consider the patient safe and use minimal PPE to do the cases.

However, following increasing risks and updating of guidelines now we wear masks and gowns for all non-COVID cases as a measure of precaution and full PPE for suspected COVID-19 patients.

1pm

Lunch time during the pandemic is also very different. I bring in my lunch now as we can no longer go down town to go for coffee or do jobs.

2pm to 5pm

On an average Pre-Covid day, the Department were scanning between 30 and 40 patients a day.

At the peak of this COVID-19 pandemic, we were only scanning 12-15 on an average a day.

This is partly due to the huge numbers of sick non-Covid patients who were not presenting themselves to A&E for fear of catching COVID-19, and secondly the length of time it takes to perform a CT scan on a COVID-19 patient.

While the number of patients coming through the door is much less but the work load is the equivalent.

The PPE leaves marks on your face and gives you pressure headaches.

I feel like l have had a dormant rumbling headache for weeks now. If you have the PPE on for any length of time the heat build-up is horrendous.

The constant washing of hands and lathering in alcohol gel has made my skin dry and itchy.

5pm

Luckily today I get to go home at 5pm and the CT on call radiographer takes over. I do an average of two nights a week on call. But today I get to change out of my uniform, change shoes and leave my work pair in work - more alcohol hand gel before I leave.

I put my uniform in a bag.

Once home I put my uniform straight into the washing machine and head for a shower.

6pm

I prepare dinner, and check in with the kids to see if the outlined school work is done and ensure they went out for exercise.

If I have the energy I will take them for a walk or a cycle - the school is doing an exercise initiative for “Do if for Dan” so we need to clock up the miles for the school collectively.

Then any housework, cleaning, clothes washing or sorting needs to be done.

7:30pm

Shower kids and TV time for an hour.

9pm

Reading time with the kids in bed. Lights out 9:30pm then I head downstairs to relax for while, reading or watch a movie.

11:30pm

Lights out all ‘round.

As a department, we entered this COVID-19 pandemic with many pressures, like many other services. In February we passed our HIQA inspection with flying colours which is testament to the work and dedication of our team.

Now as we deal with the pressures of Covid-19 we have additional worries about PPE, safe patient and staff pathways. In addition, we have all our personal worries about catching COVID-19 and then bringing the infection home to our families, and dealing with the changing guidelines on COVID-19.

However, our department in MRHP has performed nonstop with great efficiency and with smiles on our faces and we continue to do so.