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Roopak Khara

Roopak, one of our MB ChB graduates, tells us about her role working as medical lead on a psychiatric inpatient Covid-19 ward:

"Overnight I went from working as a general adult psychiatry registrar on a PICU (psychiatric intensive care unit) to medical lead for the UK’s first psychiatric inpatient COVID-19 ward in West London. As a general adult psychiatrist, this is a slightly different sphere of competency for me to be working in. But all of my colleagues on the ward are working on the edges of our normal competencies. We are making sure we've got support to do that.

It has been a unique challenge to work with and support patients through the pandemic- who by virtue of mental illness severe enough to warrant admission to hospital- may not understand why they are in hospital, what the possible complications of COVID-19 are or be able to make decisions about their care. They also don't know why the doctors working with them are wearing personal protective equipment.

This has been a time for psychiatrists to reach to the peripheries of their normal sphere of expertise encompassing the overlap between mental and physical health, in order to treat the symptoms of COVID-19 in patients who have severe mental illness. Our duty of care is always to the patient, we just have to be responsive to the changing needs - and these really are changing needs.

It's a worrying time for everybody. It is a worrying time for doctors. But what I try to keep in mind is that a lot of people are isolated at home and the positive part of this is at least we are in a job where we are able to come to work every day and we can see our colleagues every day and I try to focus on the positive side of it.

Moving forward, it is becoming evident that there will be long-term psychological sequelae to the pandemic which has affected the world in so many ways, and the impact on our collective mental health should not be underestimated. It will be an emerging challenge for psychiatrists to help and support patients who are experiencing mental health difficulties resulting from the pandemic.

My time at Warwick helped carve my desire to become a psychiatrist- I have always loved the curiosity the speciality allows you to explore and understand minds other than your own, in order to help some of the most vulnerable members of our society. I would encourage Warwick Medical Students to consider a career in psychiatry if you too think you would enjoy the privilege."