30 July 2020

Johnathan Waugh: Life in lockdown - part two

Johnathan Waugh MCOptom reflects on his time testing for COVID-19 in care homes in part two of his diaries

“As the problems in care homes hit the news, our team was tasked with testing the residents and staff in Council run homes, and we were asked to learn how to swab throats and noses in preparation for the new roles. I went to a hospital-based test centre one morning to learn the technique. As is typical in many workplaces, it was a ‘see one, do one, teach one’ situation. I quickly learned where to put my cotton bud and tried my best to make the testing as comfortable for patients as I could, despite some very strong gag reflexes and some very sensitive noses!

“A few days later, requests from local residential homes started piling in. We were responsible for six large homes with up to 140 residents and 200 staff each, along with some smaller facilities across the city. At that point, in early May, we had a small team of about eight trained swabbers, (myself, podiatrists, healthcare workers and nurses, some of them students) so getting though almost 2000 patients seemed monumental. Especially as there was a mandate for weekly testing of all care home residents. How were we going to manage that?

“The small team developed a service quickly, adapting to new guidance and, with support, increasing our testing efficiency. Wearing disposable plastic gowns, along with face shields, face masks and nitrile gloves, is hot work especially in homes where the ambient temperature could be 26 degrees. Staff testing was straightforward but residents proved more challenging, not only because many were anxious about the risks of infection, but also because dealing with patients who had dementia, Parkinson’s or hearing loss, was made even more difficult with PPE barriers. We did our best, and managed to test the majority of those we were asked to.

“May passed and we kept busy, sometimes swabbing for the majority of the day, sometimes moving around and only swabbing one or two patients at each site. Just as we were all becoming used to our new roles, some of the team were recalled to their former NHS jobs. New recruits appeared, some of whom had come out of retirement to help us get through the numbers. It felt as though we were getting on top of the testing numbers and the virus was losing its grip across the country with numbers in hospital reducing. The end of lockdown was in sight and the numbers of patients presenting to the Barr St centre had drastically fallen.

“Early June saw no significant change to my role and my mind turned towards the impending arrival of baby number three and also to my ‘proper’ job. The team I had spent the last two months with held a morning baby shower for me, which took me by surprise; it is true that sometimes people thrown together in a crisis can form stronger bonds than those you spend years working alongside.|

“On 8 June my little boy arrived, healthy and happy. I am now on parental leave and thoroughly enjoying being a dad again. I am grateful for the opportunity to work at Barr St. I’ve learned new skills and worked with clinicians from across the NHS, talking to them about how they perceive optometry and my role in both primary and secondary care. I hope I have given a good account of myself and our profession!

“At the time of writing, we are moving into amber phase in Scotland which would be a step toward moving forward with my new practice purchase. But at the moment I will content myself with changing nappies and trying to catch up on sleep whenever I can!”

Read part one of Johnathan's lockdown diaires. 

Johnathan Waugh MCOptom is an optometrist working Glasgow.

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