Dr R – Trainee experience
Dr R was pausing her training in a non-clinical role when the pandemic began. She volunteered to return to clinical work and was appointed a medical registrar on an admissions unit.
Dr R amalgamated all the COVID-19 guidelines from the World Health Organization, NICE, and the government sources into a PowerPoint pack because she wanted it to learn for herself but realised it might help others.
With consultant/Clinical Director blessing, she updated doctors and other staff groups and then did the same with national ITU audit data.
She says, ‘I wanted to learn about it anyway. I spoke to the consultant that designed the COVID service we were going to run….”I've got this idea, I've made this PowerPoint for myself, shall I deliver it to everybody else, do you think it would be useful?” ’
She then did the same for putting on and taking off PPE safely, which was carried out face to face but socially distanced, and also by video.
Due to redeployment, consultant gynaecologists, dermatologists, ophthalmologists, and other specialties were concerned about being moved to the frontline and wanted COVID-19 training. She says. ‘They were quite concerned about the role they may have to perform if redeployed, and wanted upskilling in procedures they may not have had for a long time. As well as skills training they were keen for teaching about COVID itself…. I've been delivering that same talk to nurses, healthcare assistants, porters and caterers.’
Technology was a huge enabler, with Zoom sessions held for the redeployed staff. For example in one session a respiratory registrar taught how to interpret an X ray, which was recorded for later use, accessed via a link on WhatsApp, so people who were shielding or on nights could watch them and see the associated slides at home too.
The team then did the same for the ARCPs and clinical reflections. While virtual teaching is not ideal, she says there are other pluses such as flexibility so people could watch them at home. She says, ‘I set up loads of Zoom meetings for the ARCPs, so all of the F1s and F2s could have their meetings.
‘The other day we had a clinical reflection where ITU and medicine hosted a “what have we all learned”, and you could patch in via Teams. This was also recorded and put on Microsoft Teams so all could access it.’
Another enabler was WhatsApp. At the beginning of the year she set up a WhatsApp group so that doctors in training could communicate with each other, especially helpful for people new to the area. This came into its own during the pandemic, with trainees feeling they had a level of control over events. She became a central point of contact, or a conduit, to ask questions which could be relayed up the chain, and to send out information down the chain.
She says, ‘All of the juniors had one point of contact that was me…. I could either immediately reply because I knew the answer because I'd been in lots of the meetings, or I could then go and get the information from the different consultants and then they weren't being barraged with "what's going on?" Because I wasn't being clinical when I wasn't on call, I had the time and the capacity to soak that up and not overwhelm me. I became was the middle man for everything that was going on.’
Trainees liked it as they were having their questions answered. ‘They had ownership over some of the changes that were happening to them, and they weren't just left in limbo for ages.’
She relished the experience and learnt more about medical leadership than if she had completed the whole year’s course, but still wants to be a geriatrician.
‘Is there a better time to learn about medical leadership than in the midst of a pandemic?’ she asks. ‘I feel like I've learned a lot actually, and I feel like being in this role has enabled me to do more leadership than I think I probably would have, had COVID not happened, and I think it was really lucky that I happened to be doing this job at this time.’