I’ve continued to nurse during the pandemic in prisons and in practice and have therefore experienced nursing during Covid-19. I have tried to remain open minded about the pandemic and tried not to get too stressed with it all. Obviously it has been on my mind a lot but I've tried to turn my focus to helping people with their dental pain and do the job I love the best I can.
Following the government announcement back in March, all face to face contact was stopped. At the time I was covering some work in a prison and these rules obviously applied there as well. I was still called upon to help the Dentist and we had to triage the patients that were in pain and assess whether they needed to be seen as an emergency. One of the days I was asked to cover an emergency clinic; due to the severity of Covid-19 all Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) has had to be looked at and so I had to be fitted for an FFP3 mask. A general nurse who had been trained to fit the FFP3 masks called me forward to get mine tested, I put the mask on after being given their verbal instructions on how to place it properly and she then placed a white covering over my head. I looked like an astronaut! She then ran a few tests to make sure I couldn’t taste or smell the solution she was pumping in to the white covering while moving my head around. I had passed the fit test! I was then shown and advised how to do a self test when I place a new mask. This was probably one of the moments during this pandemic that I have felt most nervous because I had no idea what to expect. It honestly was not that bad!
Being a Locum comes with a lot of variety of work and so along with Prisons I have also been into general surgeries and hubs where we have been physically treating patients with AGP’s. We were all wearing the enhanced PPE including; gloves, FFP3 mask, visor and gowns to ensure safety at all times. I looked and felt like I was ready to perform open heart surgery! But most importantly, I felt safe and I felt protected doing the job I love.
On one long day, we saw 8 patients and had to alternate between two surgeries; we would see a patient and treat them in Surgery 1, that was then cleaned down, door handles and the spare chair wiped as part of the cross infection protocol and we then had to leave that surgery to air for about an hour. We would then see another patient in Surgery 2 and then follow all the same clean down process and alternate again. The instruments were all sterilised thoroughly after each patient so there was no traces of any virus around.
After wearing the PPE for a long time during the day, it felt so good to take it all off. I came home with nose sores and felt absolutely shattered but it was worth it knowing that we had helped someone get out of pain that day!
I can honestly say that with having the enhanced PPE and the support of Cavity, the practices and the prison staff I have felt very safe to work during these unprecedented times. As Dentistry starts to reopen in the coming weeks I wanted to share my experience to help with any worries or concerns that you may be having. It is still the same rewarding job that we know and love.
(There are lots of CPD courses out there at the moment that all focus around Covid-19, I have personally found these really helpful.)