Theatre practitioners adapting to new ways of working

Joanna Holland is the Perioperative Practice Development Team Leader at The County Hospital. Her role oversees the practice development of the theatre teams including operating department practitioners and anaesthetic practitioners. In this interview here she talks through the role of her team in the COVID-19 response.

How has your role and that of your team changed with the COVID-19 response?

The theatre teams, which comprises anaesthetic practitioners, operating department practitioners (ODPs), healthcare assistants and nurses usually work alongside anaesthetists and surgical doctors to give safe patient care during surgical procedures. Anaesthetic practitioners are also part of intubation teams who support colleagues in areas such as A&E and wards.

The role of the team has changed hugely in the COVID-19 response. We have increased the number of anaesthetic practitioners and anaesthetists available so that we have more intubation teams if required. We have turned some of our units into areas for critical care patients, and many of our staff have been redeployed to critical care areas and had to quickly learn new skills and knowledge.

How did you prepare for the changes in the lead-up?

The perioperative practice development team worked hard to prepare the theatre teams for the changes. Early on, we spent most days teaching colleagues how to safely put on and take off PPE and we coordinated with the critical care practice development team to deliver bespoke teaching sessions.

We also created a range of electronic resources to reach a larger number of staff, especially those who were preparing for redeployment, including excellent videos from our critical care nurse educator on a range of topics.

Above all, we offered support and reassurance for our colleagues who were understandably anxious about working in different roles with different cohorts of patients.

What has been challenging?

It has been challenging for us to communicate frequent updates to our large teams – we have utilised every single resource available to us. We have also had to change our shift patterns to be in-line with critical care and find safe storage for the large amount of equipment Theatres has.

What have been the achievements and things you are most proud of?

We are most proud of the collaboration with critical care to deliver teaching to a large number of staff very quickly. We are also very proud of our electronic resource, which has been used by theatre staff from all specialities and divisions. Mostly, we are proud of the “we can do this” attitude from our teams, who have embraced the frequent changes with positivity and professionalism.