01 Jul 2022

'We are all in this together' Medical Secretary writes about work in the Outpatient Department in Portlaoise hospital

A day on the life of a Covid-19 Frontline worker

coronavirus covid-19

Martina Walsh, Medical Secretary, Midland Regional Hospital Portlaoise

Martina Walsh

All our lives have changed significantly this year but from 30th of March, 2020 to allow for social distancing all medical secretaries in Midland Regional Hospital Portlaoise (MRHP) starting working split shifts, i.e. one week of 7am – 2.30pm and the following week 2.30pm – 10pm. What a change from working 9-5pm!

Example of my day on the early shift (my favourite!):

6am: Alarm goes off (well for the second time after pressing snooze at 5.50am!) and time for breakfast.

6.40am: I leave for work which thankfully is only a 10 minute drive.

7am: I clock in after a daily temperature check. If cleared for work, the day starts with checking messages, which there are usually several, return calls, dealing with queries and results, preparing for virtual clinics, typing clinic letters and ensuring appointment letters are sent out in good time.

12noon: Lunchtime with the three other girls on my shift which is usually a pre-prepared sandwich or salad and a chat.

12.30pm: Back to work which normally includes meeting with Dr. Sharma, the Consultant I work for, then back to my office and I respond to queries and get the post out before I finish up at 2.30pm. I must leave the office on time so that the next shift can enter the building.

3pm: I get home, have a cuppa, put on dinner for the evening and catch up on housework.

6pm: Dinner and, if I have the energy, I go for a walk with my husband to catch up on his day.

8pm: I relax on the couch and watch some TV while catching up with family and bed for around 10.30pm.

While I find the morning shift more productive for both work and home life, it can be exhausting by the end of the week. On the alternate week we start at 2.30pm and finish at 10pm. MORE BELOW PICTURE.

I personally find that this shift does not suit me as I cannot wind down when I get home, I don’t sleep as well and therefore find it hard to get up in the mornings. I am clock watching all morning conscious of the fact that I need to be ready to go by 2pm.

My diet is also all over the place and I am eating continuously, even though I have a dinner at 1pm before going to work, I am picking all evening!

It is harder to keep in touch with family and friends also as normally it is the evenings when we catch up.

This year I am President of Portlaoise Toastmasters Club and we normally meet the second and fourth Monday of each month at 8pm.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic our meetings are virtual now. Unfortunately, my evening shift falls on the week of Toastmasters meetings so I have to take half days annual leave where possible or miss a meeting.

I really miss working with my usual work friends in the office as there are usually 10 of us and we are all very fortunate to have a great relationship with each other but due to social distancing guidelines, we have been split into the two shifts. However, it has also been a great opportunity to get to know my other co-workers better and to taste Kathleen’s baking!

Since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic I have to say the public, in general, have been so supportive and appreciative of the work we do here in the Outpatient Department which I always thought was not recognised or valued.

It is heartening to hear the ‘thank you’ messages and ‘keep up the good work’ and ‘stay safe’ messages we continue to receive which show that people really do value the work that we do.

I would like to think that the sacrifices we are making as medical secretaries in OPD are helping to slow the spread of COVID-19. I would encourage people who don’t have to travel to work or a medical appointment, please stay home and look after yourself, your family and friends, especially vulnerable neighbours who may need assistance, e.g. shopping or just to let them know you are there if they need you.

I am proud to work for the HSE and I would like to take the opportunity to thank each and every one of my work colleagues for your dedication, hard work and the sacrifices you make every day in dealing with this pandemic.

I know that it is appreciated and valued by everybody.

We are all in this together.

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