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Shirley Rigby

Shirley, Associate Clinical Professor and Senior Tutor at WMS, tells us about her role working as a consultant on a Covid-19 ward:

“For the past 6 weeks I’ve been consultant on a Covid-19 ward at Warwick Hospital. It was a rapid learning curve, learning how to diagnose and treat a new disease that none of us had seen before. We went back to basics, take a history, examine the patient, arrange appropriate investigations. I rapidly changed the way I took a history, I always sat to the side of the patient’s bed, so that I wasn’t face-to-face (thus avoiding droplet spread). I also changed the way I examined patients, standing at their side and listening to the posterior chest rather than anterior. I did a lot of reassuring patients with a gentle shoulder rub, most were understandably extremely anxious. As time progressed we saw more and more Covid-19, presenting in many different ways. We rapidly learned to recognise the characteristic ‘Corona Crackles’ in the chest and spot the tell-tale bilateral fluffy shadows on chest x-ray. The reliability of the nasal/throat swab test was not good and we saw many patients with Covid-19 who had negative swabs. We had to spend quite a bit of time with Covid patients explaining the limitations of a negative swab result.

Along the way we also saw non-Covid, ‘usual’ diseases and we had to keep an eye out for those, for example a young man was admitted with fever and shortness of breath, he had a good going old fashioned lobar (bacterial) pneumonia and I was able to reassure him that he didn’t have Covid. He made a rapid recovery and went home after a few days.

We did our best to provide good care for patients whilst taking care of our own safety. We shared patient contacts so that no one of us was overly exposed to this nasty virus. We had an excellent team, the team spirit was good and we all looked after each other. We were joined by year 4 students along the way, who were a very valuable addition.

Some patients were well enough to be discharged home and it was a pleasure to see them going home and to see the relief on their faces. Some Covid-19 patients required a longer in-patient stay and were moved to ‘Covid wards’. When I had time, I visited the other wards to keep in touch with our patients. Sadly many patients died, mostly the elderly. It was heart-breaking to watch relatives saying goodbye to their loved ones over the internet (our ward had a dedicated ipad for this unhappy purpose).

My husband has been furloughed and it has been wonderful to have him at home preparing our evening meal! Also I am lucky to have a lovely garden to come home to each evening, this year the birdsong is so loud! Sitting in the garden at the end of the day has been a great stress reliever. I have started baking bread (for the first time) and growing flowers from some old seed packets that I found in the shed!

Covid-19…I think we still have a long way to go and a lot more to learn about this virus. I am humbled to have been able to play an active part in responding to this emergency and caring for patients in the most unusual circumstances”.