When effective communication with clients is key to your work, a disease that separates people is a tough curveball to be thrown at the start of your specialist training. Clinical Connections spoke to residents who started their roles amid the first wave of the pandemic. The picture of frustration at circumstances beyond anyone’s control, coupled with adaptability and creativity, will no doubt be familiar to clinicians up and down the country.
Dave Beeston, Resident in Emergency and Critical Care, said: "Starting a residency in the middle of a pandemic is not exactly what I had planned for 2020, but it’s been an interesting experience. Residencies provide numerous challenges and I have to admit, it’s been difficult not having access to my usual hobbies to de-stress because of COVID, but it’s forced me to experiment with new pastimes.
“Working in Emergency and Critical Care has meant that there has been no decrease in cases – they are all urgent, an emergency or critical. We’ve been working throughout the pandemic and we are busy as ever. We’ve had to adapt as a team and that has meant being more flexible with changing shifts at the drop of the hat, which can be a bit tough when you cover 24/7. It’s tiring, but it’s been really great to see how we can pull together as a team to continue to deliver a high standard of care to our emergency and ICU patients."
Richard Sparrow, Resident in Internal Medicine, said: “I think one of the most significant effects has been the impact on client relationships and interaction. I can only speak for myself, but I think others probably feel the same. It just seems far more difficult to build a rapport with people through a headset doing consultations over the phone. Perhaps we’re just not as good at it as Gavin and Stacey were! It must be difficult for clients too – putting trust in someone that is essentially to them a virtual veterinarian, other than a brief encounter in the car park on admission.
“One of the more challenging aspects has been managing the sensitivities and emotions of all involved during patient euthanasia in these socially distant times. Frankly, it’s just not nice to have restrictions on the number of people who can say goodbye to their family pet, and a rather clinical process – which is in conflict with our ethos in the veterinary team. It is all for everyone’s safety – the client as much as ours. It has been great to see so many owners be very understanding of the circumstances and necessities, despite the upset, and appreciative, nonetheless.
“Of course, the team has pulled together and just got on with it as best as they can at the end of the day. One of my resident colleagues actually made a great point that doing a residency during a pandemic is actually probably pretty good timing as at least no one else is going out and having fun that you’re missing out on. I’d also like to point out that our fabulous interns have been the true heroes throughout this.”
Georgina Hall, Resident in Emergency and Critical Care, said: “Starting a residency in the midst of the pandemic introduced its own set of unique challenges. Not being able to build an in-person relationship with clients is definitely the hardest part, even though I had adjusted to that from my previous job. Getting to know members of a large team was a fun challenge. We seem to live a double life – digital avatars on Microsoft Teams and masked clinicians on the shop floor. Embarrassingly, I often didn't recognise the real version of the digital person that I had just been liaising with. It turns out that people’s chins are important for my brain's facial recognition! Having said that, the entire ECC team was super welcoming and within a few weeks I felt at home, despite the unusual start.”