Faced with a pandemic in my first year as a doctor working on the NHS frontline:
I would have never imagined that a pandemic would happen in my first year working as a doctor! Working on one of the main Covid-19 wards over the past few months has been mentally and physically challenging. It has made me grow both personally and professionally.
We have been dealing with uncertainty more than ever before, leading to feelings of helplessness and distress.
I still remember the very first case of Covid-19 on our ward; feeling anxious due to the uncertainty of this invisible virus with the additional frustration of not receiving appropriate PPE.
We had many suspected cases at the beginning of March, but it was mid-March when we had our first confirmed case. Towards the end of March, we saw a big rise in the number of Covid-19 patients in the hospital. Suddenly, we transformed into a fully positive Covid-19 ward. Everything was changing, both within the hospital and outside.
Outside, lockdown rules began to take effect. The whole world was changing. Yet, amidst all this, because I was still going into work, there was a sense of normality to my life. Don’t get me wrong, it was not normal being away from loved ones - the fear of catching the virus was constant.
Family and friends kept checking on me. They were worried but so proud at the same time.
Within the hospital, everything was changing too. Our rotas were adapted, with increased weekends, late shifts and night shifts to accommodate for our patients safely.
I vividly remember one challenging week on my ward when we were full of patients, young and old, many unwell and deteriorating. Some were taken to ITU and some unfortunately did not survive. The scary thing about this virus is its rapid effect. In one day, I witnessed 4 deaths. This was mentally exhausting and the worst part of the job.
Also unforgettable is how patients’ relatives were not allowed to visit and be with them. It was heart-breaking that they could not be together during their last days.
Having caught the virus myself, I can vouch that it was mentally tough as after witnessing many unwell patients, I could not help but imagine the worst for myself. Fortunately, I had mild symptoms and made a full recovery within days.
It was kind and generous of the community to applaud us and donate gifts which made us feel appreciated but the best part was definitely when patients recovered and returned to their loved ones. This truly felt like an achievement.
We have mourned with our patients and their families. We have mourned alone and with those we love. It has been tough, we have been tested to our capacity and pulled through. It has brought us closer as colleagues, lending courage and strength to each other.
Things seem to be settling, lockdown seems to be easing. However the fight against the virus is not over yet! We still need to be careful with our interactions and stay as safe as possible.
By Dr Nafia Rehman
Nafia Rehman graduated from King’s College London in 2019 and is doing Foundation Year 1 at West Midlands South. She absolutely loves and enjoys what she does and is hoping to continue to make a positive impact in her patient’s lives, taking lots of living and learning experiences from this pandemic.