Submitted by: Mel, Rotational Physiotherapist
Working on ICU during the peak of covid was an unforgettable experience.
During this time, I was treating both general ICU patients and covid ICU patients. Covid patients tended to have high oxygen requirements, and although some would wean off their oxygen quite quickly, others would deteriorate and continue with their treatment on a ventilator until they were well enough to wean off. We would treat patients at all stages of their critical care journey to ensure their muscles maintained range and provide chest physiotherapy to optimise their lungs.
We all adopted new ways of working to be able to cope with the workload and remain efficient within our roles. The donning of PPE was a pressure in itself and working with heavy patients with this amount of gear on was hot, sweaty and incredibly uncomfortable. It was a challenge to recognise colleagues and very difficult to communicate in those conditions.
As a member of the critical care team, I did everything possible to assist with the surge beyond my scope of practice. I helped to relocate equipment to set up additional ICU beds, assisted with manual handling of patients, learned how to take an ABG in order to be able to run blood gasses, and assisted with night shifts when staffing levels were poor. There were days when I took on the role of HCA and provided help with patient’s personal care, and my colleagues and I would often try and take the pressure off the nursing staff and relieve them for their breaks.
There was sadness on the wards when coping with the loss of patients. Some weeks I would leave work on a Friday to find that by Monday nearly half of my case load had passed away. Those beds were quickly filled with new patients requiring critical treatment for covid. We acknowledged this as a team and supported each other personally and professionally.
It was incredible to witness the variety of staff who helped with the surge, many of those having been re-deployed from other departments with no previous ICU exposure. I was happy to give them my time to help familiarise them with the department and patients. As a collective the entire ICU team worked tremendously, and I also feel these times have shown how strong and adaptable the physiotherapy team is. It was truly extraordinary how we all supported one another.