Hello, my name is Melissa and I am a clinical psychologist working with Camden and Islington NHS Foundation Trust and I am here today to talk with Katy, who is a women’s health physiotherapist.
Melissa: So welcome Katy.
Katy: Thanks so much for having me.
Melissa: Maybe it would be helpful at first to hear how your job was impacted by the pandemic?
Katy: So I’m a women’s health physio that mostly works in outpatients at UCLH, and in the first surge our whole team was redeployed over to Westmoreland Street which was set up as a cancer hub. We were redeployed as a team and then formed a bigger team, so we were quite close knit over there. It was kind of a nice opportunity to focus on some different skills.
In the second surge it was a little bit different. We had all come back to our normal service in between but as we all came back from Christmas in January, we were all redeployed again, but this time we all went to different places. So some of the team stayed here to continue our urgent services, some of our team went back to Westmoreland Street, and I went up to the COVID wards which is where I met you. So it was a very different experience with the two surges, especially being up on the COVID wards I felt like a lot of my colleagues there had seen the COVID patients before and been in that environment before whereas it was all really new for me in the second surge, so that first week I was just emotionally and physically exhausted because it was all just a really new environment and treating patients I had never really come across before. And what was different the second time round, there was a constantly changing team, so you never really knew who you would be working with until you were up on the ward in the morning, which is in some ways really nice because you got to work with lots of different people with different skill sets, but it was actually something I found quite stressful because I realise how much I depend on the people around me and that identity within a team and it was something that was changing on a daily basis at the time.
Melissa: I wonder if it can make a person feel like it is hard to find their footing when there’s that not stable or secure foundation that a team can provide.
Katy: Absolutely, I mean there were some really nice things in there as well, so one of the physios I was working with was initially someone that I was their educator when they were a student a few years ago, and then all of a sudden she was the respiratory expert and I had no idea what I was doing, I was like ‘teach me everything’. So it was really nice having a bit of a role reversal and experience that as well.
Melissa: I wonder are there any other difficulties or challenges that you really felt being redeployed, particularly in your second role, posed.
Katy: I think the second time round we were all probably quite fatigued with the change over the past year, and I think there was a real sense of loss in terms of career progressions. I mean we all specialise for a reason and we are all really passionate about those areas that we specialise in, and I think that for me I had this concern about my normal caseload that had had appointments missed, we weren’t even able to properly catch up from the first surge, so there was that anxiety of how are we even going to restart our service when we come back. So I feel there was more of that in the second surge and colleagues at every level had had their career pathway changed or things delayed and so it was obviously frustrating for myself but to see others as well have to wait to get to those milestones as well.
Melissa: Yeah, and you mention that word loss there and I can really hear that coming through. It’s the loss of the patients you are working with and your role that is all waiting there in the background and worrying about them, but it is also the loss of your identity where you are at on your training pathway and how you specialise, all this stuff you have been working towards and the uncertainty about what is going to happen there.
Katy: Yeah, no, absolutely. I was having those experiences in work but also outside of work. I mean in some ways it is good to talk about something different when you are outside of work and have a different environment, and I know we were very lucky with that in terms of getting to leave the house every day and having a change of environment. Particularly in that first lockdown we had such beautiful weather and just cycling to work every day, coming back in the sunshine was such an important thing.
Melissa: It’s funny you mention that because that was literally going to be my next question of what helped you cope with that, and I can hear cycling might have been part of it.
Katy: Yes, definitely being outdoors was really important. In the first surge we were really lucky, we had a little courtyard and just having that time together outside to have lunch as a team was really important. And I think it was just you know having that recognition that you could only do your best and you’re part of this wider team that are all experiencing the same challenges and frustrations and we were all working towards the same goals. And then I think in the second surge I think it was really important for our team that had been redeployed to different places to come together and the sessions that you facilitated were so helpful to have that opportunity to reflect together, because everyone had such a different experience, even when we were in the same environments. And I think you can think that someone is finding something difficult but you never really understand it until you hear it from their perspective, so that was really important. And then I guess personally just having time out, having annual leave, I don’t think any of us took annual leave for months in that first lockdown and that is definitely something I have learnt, take your leave and have that time out.
Melissa: So we are coming to the end of our chat today, but before we go I really wanted to ask you what do you think is something, if you had to name one thing, that you are proud of that you have done during this time? It can be something at work, outside of work, big or small.
Katy: Oh, that’s so difficult! I guess I am proud as a whole of our team and kind of the fact that we have gone through those two different redeployments and we are back in clinic and we are seeing our face to face patients now slowly which is really nice. So I guess just that ability to bounce back from all of the change and almost come together stronger, and there are things we have done as a team that have happened quicker because of the fact we have had to change to virtual or develop new services which is really good. And then yeah I guess personally I am proud of recognising the importance of work life balance and trying to get that better and I think that is a lesson to take on longer after the pandemic.
Melissa: Oh Katy, it has been such a pleasure to speak to you, I wish we had longer. I could sit here and talk for ages, but it has been so good to hear about how it has been for you over these past twelve months and I think there is a lot of what you have said that people are going to really relate to so thank you so much for sharing it today and speaking with me.
Katy: Not at all, and thanks for all of your help. Thanks for giving me the opportunity to reflect.