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St Paul’s and COVID-19 – one specialty’s response to the pandemic – Part 2

Last May, we shared an article describing how St Paul’s staff responded to COVID-19.  As the UK is currently dealing with the third wave of the infection, the call for support from St Paul’s to help our colleagues in other areas of the Hospital was made once again.

St Paul’s staff have been mobilised quickly to help their colleagues who work in the intensive care units by taking on the responsibility of proning patients fighting a COVID-19 infection. 

The team, including nursing, doctors, orthoptists and opticians, organised a rota of their staff to provide a dedicated, twice-daily, 7-day service to assist with proning and supinating intubated and ventilated COVID positive patients.  The staff were redeployed within days and organised into teams of six.

Proning is the act of turning a patient to lie face-down. Patients that require proning are normally cared for in this position for around 16 hours per day and are normally intubated, ventilated and sedated. Essential care and prevention of pressure sores necessitate them to lie face-up for the remainder of the time, this is called supinating.

"I have the utmost respect for the staff who have been working in these conditions for over 10 months doing long shifts in full protective equipment."

Tom Sharp, Optometrist

Miss Rutika Dodeja, a Speciality Doctor at St Paul’s, has helped co-ordinate the effort in conjunction with Dr Maia Graham, Consultant Intensivist. The team are delighted to be able to support their colleagues in this way. They suggest that by taking on this responsibility, it allows over-stretched colleagues in critical care to continue to provide the high levels of exemplary patient care to those that need it most, allowing them to make more efficient use of their specialist time in some of the most difficult of circumstances.

Tom Sharp, St Paul’s optician, who has been working with 11 of his colleagues toTom Sharp, second right, with colleagues give their support, said: “It has been really humbling for us to be helping out on the Intensive Care Unit. As optometrists, our experience has been challenging but vastly different from other colleagues around the Hospital, so to see what other staff are facing day to day has been really eye opening. Although we are only helping with proning for 2 hours, two times a week the difficulty working in the PPE was one all of us hadn’t fully appreciated. The mask is really tight and restrictive and the multiple layers of PPE can mean you work up quite a sweat in a really short time. It is a massive relief when we are able to take it off. I have the utmost respect for the staff who have been working in these conditions for over 10 months doing long shifts in full protective equipment.”

Mark Batterbury, Clinical Director for St Paul’s, said: “I would like to thank all the staff for so enthusiastically agreeing to support, both directly and indirectly, our colleagues in the Intensive Care Unit.

“Staff not only undertook the role of proning and supinating, but also pulled together to relieve each other from other clinical commitments to ensure the excellent standard of care within St Paul’s was not compromised – it really has been a tremendous show of teamwork by all.

“High-risk procedures such as proning and supinating require close coordination and cooperation amongst the staff.  We are all well-established in working together as well as familiar with each other so we can provide support to colleagues and each other in a potentially distressing environment.

“We would also like to thank Dr Maia Graham and her team in ITU for all their hard work and for their support with helping co-ordinate the efforts.”