Taking the ‘theory route’ during the pandemic.

Start of placement and pandemic…

There I was finally on my management placement reminiscing about the last three years of my training and how I got there. Wondering how ready I’ll be after my 450 practice hours. Will that be enough time for me to be an expert on all subject’s general paediatrics? I have been told by nurses before that these feelings are normal and that everyone goes through these notions.

Of course, the plot twist to this story is that it’s the year 2020 and we know by now that nothing really goes as planned. So, in true 2020 fashion, I was faced with a few dilemmas. I was placed in general paediatrics, and the pandemic was becoming more and more real. Guidelines and laws were changing in what felt like every half an hour, the Covid19 virus was taking over the planet.

Very little was known at the beginning of March, and things seemed a bit strange because of the unknown. There we were treating the bread and butter of general paediatrics during the spring months; difficulty in breathing, wheezing, coughing, asthma and allergy rhinitis. Next thing we know new guidelines were being released two weeks in with possible symptoms of the famous virus. Anyone that comes in with any of the following listed symptoms has to be tested for Covid19;

  • Coryzal
  • Coughing
  • Fever
  • Difficulty in breathing

Wait HOW? This is general paediatrics in Spring, how will you be able to test every child that comes in with these symptoms? That will be every patient that I’ve had before these guidelines? This will mean that literally, every child will need to be tested.

Of course, the obvious was happening after that, every child that came into the ward was COVID positive or suspected COVID. I should also add that at the time PPE was scarce.

I remember being asked to go and collect my patients from ‘dirty’ accident and emergency that was dedicated to anything respiratory. My two patients were suspected of COVID. I remember asking the manager at the time to give me a mask before entering as every other professional inside had one. Her response was that I was only going to be here for 15 minutes maximum, so I will not need one. I had to take handovers for both patients at the ‘dirty’ A&E without any personal protective equipment. Did I feel safe doing so? Absolutely not, but I stayed professional and carried on with providing my patients and worried families with the best care I could.

So, we’re nearing the end of March and numbers of infections were rising, and PPE was not getting any better. The government decided to shut down the schools, and my two DDs had to now stay at home. More updates were coming out, some students that I knew were now moving into hotels to avoid contact with their children. I knew that I had to start making some difficult decisions, I had worked so hard to get here, yet I did not want to put my daughter with underlying conditions at risk. After some pondering, I made the decision to take the theory route and shield with my daughters and put a pause on my placement.

Anxiety Galore…

I knew I had made the right decision for my family, but I started to suffer from a lot of anxiety, wondering if I did. It was always worse at night, and a friend suggested that I use apps such as Calm and Headspace. I gave them a go, and they were great for helping me sleep. I then realised that my anxiety was not only caused by the fact that I was no longer at work but also because I had stopped exercising as the gyms had closed too.

So, I started to exercise at home and began doing challenges such as planks and tummy exercises. Sixty days into the challenge, I saw a change in my body and soul. I know that sounds a bit like a mindfulness magazine, but it really did wonders. The results motivated to do more, so I stayed consistent.

The children being around and home-schooling was a blessing in disguise. Getting to know how each of them learnt and their style of learning was a valuable experience. I loved learning with them and trying to read my research articles for my assignments once they had gone to bed. So, the sort of new routine was enough to relieve my anxiety.

My new found love for indoor gardening was also a very relaxing hobby. I had owned plants before but never managed to keep them alive longer than a month if not weeks. This time I was determined to be more intentional. I was ready to know each plant and their specific needs so I can cater to each of their needs. Maybe this was a way of getting my need to care and give met? Maybe but whatever it was or is it helps me focus on something more significant than overthinking.

Returning to work and anticipation…

So, four months into this new routine with lockdown, I now have a start date to return to placement. I have received my off duty and anticipating what it will be like to be back. I am looking forward to getting back to work but also worried about possible lost clinical skills.

I also have so many questions about what the ward would be like. What will it be like post the four months of the pandemic? Will there be a second spike? Will I have to shield again? Will schools remain open, or will they have to close again? Is there adequate PPE?

I guess I will never know the answers to these questions until the time comes. Meanwhile, I am mostly positive about getting back into placement and coming out the other end as a ‘Newly Registered Paediatric Nurse’. It feels bizarre to even write that. But yes, after working hard on all my final assignments and passing two of them with 1st class grades and one with a 2:1. I am now only 10 weeks of placement away from becoming a paediatric nurse. I am nervous and most excited.  

Lily (www.twitter.com/MissWolday)

Published by RCN Newly Qualified Nurses

The voice of newly qualified nurses within the Royal College of Nursing. Providing support from six months pre-registration throughout preceptorship.

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