What a mad few days!
It started on Tuesday with the warning that the ‘Beast From the East’ was coming. Although it was predicted to only hit the east side of the UK I thought I’d best prepare. Or at any rate buy some thermal tights. To be fair we’ve had these kind of armageddon warnings before so no one was really that concerned ‘it’ll be a pussy cat by the time it gets to Scotland’.
However this was to be no fluffy kitten of a storm.
Waking up on Wednesday morning it became apparent that we were in for a rough day. Waiting for the train in a snowy Queen Street Station my phone buzzed constantly. Our rota WhatsApp was rammed with messages from the trainees saying they’d either be late with some unable to make it at all.
Despite that I honestly didn’t think it was going to be anything more than a really rubbish day. Then came the news a 1.30pm that a red weather warning was to come into effect at 3pm. People were advised to leave immediately and public transport stopped running.
It became clear that this was going to be more than just a rubbish day.
A mass exodus ensued for all non essential staff. WhatsApp, email and my page was going constantly. In the midst of the chaos people were still turning up to my clinic despite having been phoned not to come. Trying to manage the situation was, how they say, ‘challenging’
As with any crisis you get to see a wide spectrum of human behaviours. Now I’m writing from the perspective of a doctor who also happens to be in charge of all things junior doctor related. It’s not to downplay or ignore the work of all my other colleagues. It’s just how I experienced it.
To say I was impressed with how our junior docs stepped up would be a gross understatement. I was blown away.
As the hospital emptied they took the initiative to arrange a meeting for everyone who was left to sort out what was needed. I was acting as support/go between (or gopher for want of another description) between the trainees and the remains of the management team.
There were many rumours circulating which made trying to manage the situation more tricky:
- ‘your insurance is invalid during a red weather warning’
- ‘will I be made to work nightshift if I’ve been on days’
- ‘the buses are running – no they’re not, yes they are’
- ‘the canteen has run out of food and is closing at 3pm’
- ‘THERE’S NO CHIPS LEFT!!!!’
We tried to get advice from the BMA only to be told the office had been temporarily evacuated due to the weather – much to the amusement of everyone at the meeting.
Whilst it seemed to be getting a little silly it seemed to only further fuel the trainees enthusaism. I didn’t hear one word of complaint/moan/whinge. That was until the news broke that the pub at the Premier Inn had shut. Deflating balloon would be an accurate description looking round the room – however hero of the hour Dr Dan Beckett went out into the blizzard to source some supplies.
I did manage to get through to the BMA. Rumours were clarified. Patient care was sorted. It was all good.
As Wednesday morning arrived the reality of what we were dealing with became apparent. The hospital huddle was reporting next to no staff had made it in. It had the feeling of a war zone.
Still everyone pulled together. It was phenomenal. We had senior management out and about in 4x4s picking people up. Serco doing everything they could to ensure patients and staff were fed and the place was clean. Our nurses continued to deliver excellent care. That doesn’t even cover our other colleagues in pharmacy, the labs, rehab and countless others.
All the while I was bouncing around seeing thrombolysis referrals, doing a ward round and manning the texts and WhatsApp. Adrenaline may’ve increased my average working speed to 1000mph but I did force myself to slow down as I spoke to worried relatives/carers.
So the day went on. As did the snow. It. Never. Stopped. All. Day.
We were all getting tired at this point. The hero in my story was my Charge Nurse Nyree Philips. Living across from the hospital she came in off her annual leave as well as providing me with chat, an ear and later in the night, gin! All this despite my laughing at her when she face planted in the snow as we walked out of the hospital.
I spent time with colleagues I rarely see and got to know others better. A thought that went through my head was ‘you just don’t know’ – you don’t know what people are dealing with or going through.
We also talk a lot about how we’ve lost that sense of team spirit and camaraderie with all the rota changes. On reflection I disagree. I don’t think it ever went away. We just lost sight of it. Now I’m not suggesting we should get snowed in on a regular basis but I do think we need to try harder to make time.
As the past few days has shown even when we were at our most stretched and busiest we were still able to make the time to ask ‘You alright? Fancy a coffee/chat? That’s what’s going to stay with me after this experience.
However now that I’m finally home you will need to excuse me. I’m off to build a snowman…..