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Q&A with a UK Anaesthetist on COVID-19

Hannah, Anaesthetist from the UK and CIVCO Radiotherapy Senior Regional Director of Northern EMEA, Simon Theobald’s daughter, shares her experiences of caring for COVID-19 patients and handling the global pandemic.


What is your official job title?
Anaesthetic core trainee. I've completed five years of medical school and two years of general training. I'm currently in my third year of an eight year anaesthetist in training program.

On a normal day what do you love most about your job?
I love the variety of things I can be doing day to day, from a “normal” anaesthetic in a straight forward operation, to labour ward putting in epidurals, seeing major trauma patients in the Emergency Department and procedures in the intensive care unit.

What made you want to get into healthcare?
I can’t remember a time when I didn’t want to be a doctor and it sounds so cheesy as well as the thing every potential medical student says at an interview, but I feel so privileged to do a job that I love which has so much potential for good.

What is it like to have Simon as your dad?  We love him by the way, such an authentic man!
I’m very lucky to have always have been supported by my dad in everything I’ve tried and I’m sure I wouldn’t have got to where I am now without him and my mum quietly pushing me to do my best. You’ve sometimes got to wade through a series of dad jokes and teasing but he’s always got some useful advice to give as well as being one of the most generous and thoughtful men I’ve ever met. 

Tell us a little about your position and a typical day before COVID-19.
As an anaesthetist in training, we rotate through different modules to give us experience and technical skills particular to each. Before COVID-19 this was an ENT module where I was mainly doubled up with a consultant learning about how to anaesthetise this group of patients. 

Can you share some of your experiences of taking care of patients with COVID-19? Can you paint a picture of what you're seeing as you deal with the pandemic?
One of the main differences in treating patients with COVID-19 is the barrier created by the layers of PPE we need to wear. I feel lucky that we’ve had enough to go round for staff but it’s very difficult to communicate to both staff and patients through masks and visors. It is very hot and unpleasant with lots of people getting pressure sores from tight fitting masks and I’m sure it’s pretty scary for the patients. 

The intensive care unit is full and we are using our paediatric beds for adult patients. Despite this, our nurses have been delivering absolutely amazing care even under the immense pressures. As doctors we are able to do some of our work away from the patient bedside (eg looking at notes/scans, requesting investigations, talking to other specialists) and so get some let up but the nurses are doing long shifts in full PPE whilst also doing lots of manual handling. They really are fantastic!

We’ve also put a hold on all but the most life threatening ENT and similar procedures as these are felt to be the most high risk. 

How did you feel at the start of the pandemic? How are you feeling now?
There was a big fear of the unknown at the start of the pandemic. We were looking at what was happening in Italy and trying to plan for the worst whilst training up staff for additional roles. There were lots of changes in plans and no one was sure what was coming. 

Things are starting to feel more positive now. We have clear plans about what to do and how we treat patients in theatre and how many staff we need. There is still some trepidation though as elective work starts to increase again and how we will cope with that. 

What are some ways that communities can support health care professionals?
The main way the community can support healthcare is to maintain social distancing and not push the boundaries set. We have managed to flatten the peak but there’s no quick fix unfortunately 

What are some of your biggest concerns for your facility over the next couple of months?
The main worry is how we can increase our planned elective work which has been on hold the last few months. We have been doing some in our “clean” hospital (the Spire and Nuffield private hospitals have been running quite a few NHS lists) but the waiting lists for elective but nonetheless important work are building all the time...

What are some positive things that could come out of this situation?
I hope that there are lots of positives that will come out of this like people realising how important the NHS is and how we should value it. I also hope people will remember all the simple pleasures they’ve enjoyed with their families at home but also staying in touch online. I for one have made concerted efforts to check in with friends and family more often. 

We'd like to extend a major thank you to Hannah for her contributions as an essential health care worker and for taking the time to share her insight on this important issue!



Hannah with her father, Simon Theobald




Hannah wearing PPE