Louise O’Brien, a Senior Physiotherapist in the of Midland Regional Hospital Portlaoise, tells us about a day in the Out-Patients Department during COVID-19. This article was published in the Leinster Express on 14th June 2020.
A Day in the Life of Frontline Worker
By Louise O’Brien, Senior Physiotherapist in Out-Patients
Midland Regional Hospital Portlaoise
While COVID-19 has had a negative impact on so many people we would like to think that within our Physiotherapy Department we have strived to maintain our usual high standards of care supporting each other and the community albeit in a different manner that we traditionally will have.
The face of Midland Regional Hospital Portlaoise (MRHP) Physiotherapy Outpatient department has changed significantly in the past two months. Staff within the department have up-skilled in relation to PPE, respiratory care and on-call competencies alongside changing rotas and working hours to prepare to deal with COVID-19. Break times are also staggered to minimise staff group interaction in line with social distancing measures. The structure of treating patients has seen significant changes within the department from our traditional approaches used up to this point.
A typical day in physiotherapy outpatients now looks as follows:
On arrival to the department our temperature is checked and we then change into our uniform, ready to begin the day. As the majority of face-to-face patient clinics remain suspended, patient contact now occurs in new and innovative ways. Through strong links with our physiotherapy colleagues in the Dublin Midlands Hospital Group, we’ve identified strategies in managing high priority groups. All priority referrals to the service are contacted by phone and a provisional assessment of the patient’s condition takes place. The majority of cases are now managed remotely over the phone or using online consultations using Teleheath. In clinical situations where face to face contact is essential, patient and staff safety is paramount. Our clerical staff have been excellent in relaying information to ensure patients understanding regarding safety to attend appointments. Extra precautions are currently in place for staff and patients alike. We are using face masks and gloves, minimising time in close contact and ensuring social distance during the consultation and treatment process. Follow up appointments are largely by phone or Telehealth.
The presence of Telehealth, or online consultations, has been accelerated within the health service during COVID-19. Our Physiotherapy Department has embraced the use of Telehealth to ensure continuity of service for patients that we are not in a position to see in person. Through links with the School of Physiotherapy at the University of Limerick, final year physiotherapy students are assisting in rolling out Telehealth for patients. Telehealth has allowed patients to access advice, education and exercise programmes to target their personalised rehabilitation.
COVID-19 has been a challenge to all healthcare staff including the outpatient physiotherapy team in changing our traditional work practices. We are mindful of monitoring and supporting each other’s mental and physical wellbeing. We do this by checking in with one another and encouraging exercise at break time, mental health resources and have even managed to include the odd socially distanced Pilates class. We have been inundated with delicious goodies from many local businesses which have lifted our spirits no end.
While COVID-19 has had a negative impact on so many people we would like to think that within our Physiotherapy Department we have strived to maintain our usual high standards of care supporting each other and the community albeit in a different manner that we traditionally will have. Our focus now is to planning how outpatient clinics slowly return with the challenge of COVID-19 precautions to help keep our patients safe.