Ashley’s story – being an ICU Physiotherapist during COVID-19
"Once the patients were well enough to leave ICU, this milestone moment was celebrated by staff."
“As a physiotherapist working in the intensive care unit (ICU), I had to provide training and upskill a large number of staff to deliver safe and effective care in order to double our ICU capacity. It was great to have extra staff to help us through this challenging time. We supported our nursing colleagues by helping with washing patients, changing their position and generally being an extra pair of hands where we could.
One method for helping the oxygen levels of Covid patients is to lie them on their front, in the prone position. The physiotherapy team became the ‘proning team’ where we would assist our nursing and medical colleagues to turn a patient prone or on to their back again. This is a labour intensive job as it takes up to 6 people to safely perform this task. This can be of great benefit to the patient, slowly reducing the amount of help given to them by the ventilator.
The greatest part of my job was getting patients, who were on a ventilator, to start their rehabilitation journey and achieve sitting at the edge of the bed for the very first time. Often, these patients had been in ICU for up to 3 weeks critically unwell before they were well enough to start moving. As visiting had been suspended we were able to capture these moments on video to share with the patient’s family which also turned into a video diary for the patient. Once the patients were well enough to leave ICU this milestone moment was celebrated by staff lining the ward and clapping them out of the unit, almost like a guard of honour! A huge amount of care and hard work as a whole ICU team allowed us to share and participate in these special moments.
Personally I live alone so have been able to keep myself isolated from friends and family which has helped my anxieties about spreading the virus to those I care about most. I’m looking forwards to becoming an auntie in the summer and hope I can visit my wee niece or nephew, maybe even getting a cuddle!”
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