Submitted by Simon
Consultant Gastroenterologist & Chief of Service – Medicine and Unscheduled Care Division
I would like to share the story of how the Trust’s front line staff came together to offer practical advice, reflection, clinical discussion and mutual support from the very start of the Covid pandemic.
Just as soon as Covid hit West Sussex, I set up a meeting with the front line physicians and nurses with the aim of coming together to talk about what was coming and how we would cope with it.
The original group was very small, including representatives from emergency department, emergency floor, respiratory, microbiology and intensive care.
From the very first meeting, we immediately realised that the need for talking and sharing was great. We then started meeting every day for one hour. Initially, people just needed to come together to share the news from what was happening in other countries and elsewhere in the UK, and voice their worries and anxieties about what was clearly to come.
The meetings were cross-site right from the word go, in the spirit of sharing as much information and emotional support as possible.
It soon became clear that the COVID operational group would become a vital function in dealing with the pandemic.
What followed in the next weeks and months was one of the most extraordinary and uplifting experiences of my professional life.
Gradually, the meeting became larger and larger, including doctors, nurses and managers representatives from every specialty, not just medical but also from all other divisions.
Junior doctors’ representatives joined early on, and played a hugely important role in making sure that all doctors in the trust were aware of what was going on, organised training, participated in rota management, etc. More matrons and nurses joined; the site teams were present every day. It was not unusual to have 60+ people coming to the meetings every day.
A lot of the clinical pathways, standard operating procedures, management algorithms were designed, agreed and communicated here. All the ward changes (and there were many) were discussed here.
All potential obstacles and problems were troubleshot here. The core purpose of this group, mutual support and understanding, continued to be the bedrock of all collaborations between different specialties and different staff groups.
Everyone learnt about what everyone else was facing and how they were coping with it, and each of us ultimately gained a greater understanding of the other.
I believe that is partly thanks to this forum that we saw such a great will for doctors and nurses to go out of their comfort zone and help their colleagues on other wards, join in Covid rotas, etc., which is what ultimately delivered such good outcomes for our patients.
The group also joined together on a WhatsApp group, which was active day and night, seven days a week, and linked people to aid problem solving in real time. Often message of wellbeing initiatives and mutual support were posted by members of the group.
As we come out of the worst of the COVID pandemic, we continue to meet, not every day but just once a week now, and we have optimistically scrapped the word COVID and re-named our group as ‘Medicine ops group’.
Attendance remains very high, perhaps reflecting the persisting need to talk about what happened and how we are going to resume our ‘normal lives’.
I believe that a lot of good, lasting changes have come out of the pandemic.
I will forever remember how everyone came together to talk, share and help their colleagues.
COVID, like no other event in our professional lives, has taught us that there is real strength in coming out of our comfort zone and working together as a team, and I hope this is a lesson we have now learned for good.