COVID-19 diaries with Asees Lamba: Redeployment to the Nightingale

Next COVID-19 diaries is with Asees Lamba, a foundation dentist who has been redeployed to the Nightingale Hospital in London

Asees with some the team at the Nightingale 

Let's talk about the C-word. COVID-19. It came. It saw. It conquered. And then it flipped over lives upside down: a world without us being able to do dentistry day in, day out?! Trust me, I was just as bewildered as everyone else - did the five years I worked so hard for and the 6 months of foundation training come to a halt just like that? Yes. Yes, they did. 

It all got serious in March: my SJT was cancelled, the lock down was announced and I ended up working from home due to my practice being over 2 hours away by train. At first came the excitement, I was finally going to be able to be productive and join my non-dental friends in working from home. I had the time to read all those articles I'd previously downloaded and aimed to read. I spent time collating my audit data and started adding more to my portfolio. 

During the two weeks I worked from home I had filled out the volunteering for redeployment form. This was the form that all the London, Kent, Surrey & Sussex FDs were asked to complete and within a week, I was asked to go to a training day for the Nightingale Hospital. The training took place on Sunday 5th April and my first shift was the following Friday. In the midst of all the apparent fake emails, I'd become one of the first 2 FDs to start at the Nightingale. I was apprehensive. I was intrigued. I was exhilarated. 

Day one: Possibly one of the most manic days I've ever had and definitely the most active I had been the entire year! I spent the first few hours being directed all over the hospital for scrubs, fit testing, finding crocs and signing in. By the time I finally got onto the ward it was 10:30am - not off to the best start considering I'd been rostered to start at 8am! Luckily putting on the PPE for the first time went a bit more smoothly since we'd worn similar on oral surgery back in the dental hospital. The ward itself was not at all how I had imagined, the sheer scale of the hospital hit me at that point and I was impressed. How did they manage to build this in a week?!

The only comparison that I can make for the first day was like the first time I nursed for a fifth year and they would ask me to get them an unfamiliar item - like a Mylar strip. I honestly had no clue what a Mylar strip would look like or what it was for. I was just expected to somehow find it. It's a similar experience to being on a ward for the first time: what is a Yankauer sucker and where exactly am I supposed to find one?! Or what will happen to the patient if I touch those lines? What's the aggressive beeping on the machine and how do I stop it? Although at that point I would find a nurse or a doctor to help me deal with it. Once I got back from my lunch break, I started getting the hang on things. I found the relevant areas on the machines to chart in the notes, I was more comfortable seeing ventilated patients and being around them and I started asking more questions. 

As the weeks went on, the shifts got easier, my understanding of COVID-19 and how to manage patients was deeper and I enjoyed seeing my patients make small improvements. The 50-hour weeks didn't seem to faze me and I was able to see the difference everyone on the ward team had made. It was a steep learning curve, but I'd risen to it - I felt more confident, I felt stronger and I knew I could focus more on learning rather than just doing. 

I was lucky enough to be on shift when one of the patients I had helped look after over the first two weeks was extubated. There were enough people around him, so I didn't watch the extubation; however, I was there the entire morning whilst he was being monitored prior to the extubation and then I wheeled him down from his bay into the step down (recovery) area. As I led his bed down the ward, every single doctor, nurse, ODP, clinical support worker and all other members of the clinical team clapped for him until we reached the bay. It was probably one of the most heart-warming experiences I have had. I felt so touched to be a part of it. 

I know not all the stories are as heart-warming and maybe I gloss over that to avoid the overarching gloominess of COVID-19, but I think that it is important to focus on these small wins. We need to take positives out of our experiences, to learn from what we've gone through and strive to improve ourselves for the future. 

People have called me 'brave' and 'resilient'; though personally I don't see that. Yes, I went into the unknown and did a job no dentist is trained to do, I saw very ill patients and saw some die, but at the end of the day, it was my duty of care. With that being said, I made sure I read about each patient and their family so I could care for them on a more personal level, I worked hard to ensure the nurses and doctors could focus on what they needed to do and I asked for help when needed. 

The hospital is currently on sleeper mode just in case there is a second wave, so I am still redeployed and awaiting further instruction whilst being stood down. Hopefully there will be no need for the hospital but if I was asked to do it again, I would. 

Life after four weeks at the Nightingale is very different. I felt emotional leaving, there was more I wanted to do to help and I didn't realise the last shift I came out from would end up being my last ever shift. It's amazing to see how we all gelled together in such a short space of time and developed the hospital into what it came to be, providing that best possible care for every single patient we saw. Going back to working from home is strange, it makes me feel like the time I had was almost a dream as it was so different to my normal day in practice. 

I'm not sure what the future holds for me, let alone dentistry. I know it will change but so will we: we will learn to adapt and it's all about taking the opportunity to grow not just as professionals but as individuals. There's so much we can do and now is the the time to do it. 

I'm Asees and that's it for my COVID-19 diary... for now!

Asees has recorded her experiences of working in the Nightingale on her YouTube channel.... check them out! 

Do you want to write a COVID-19 diary? Please get in touch! Whether you're a dental student, foundation dentist, dental core trainee, associate, dental nurse, therapist I WANT TO HEAR FROM YOU!

You Might Also Like


Top Categories