A Day in the Life of a Respiratory Registrar in NGH

Zubair Abbas, a Respiratory Registrar in a designated COVID-19 ward in Naas General Hospital talks about how his routine has changed considerably during the COVID-19 pandemic. This article was published in the Leinster Leader and Kildare Now on 30th May 2020.

A Day in the Life of COVID-19 Frontline Worker
By Zubair Abbas, Respiratory Registrar, Naas General Hospital

My name is Zubair and I am working as a Respiratory Registrar in Naas General Hospital, in a designated COVID-19 ward. My routine, like my fellow colleagues, has changed considerably.


I am pleased to see the responsible attitude of the public in this difficult situation where social distancing is a corner stone in controlling infection. Caring for our loved ones, especially elderly, by staying away from them can save their lives.

I live just a stone’s throw from the hospital and in fact can see the hospital building from my bedroom window which is a beacon of light and an island of hope in the midst of a sea of uncertainty and fear spread by this pandemic. Thanks to the lovely and soothing sunlight, which is marvellous for the last few weeks, I wake up at around 07:00 am. After taking a light breakfast, I go through emails forwarded by Senior Clinicians, hospital administration and different medical societies which are quite helpful in keeping me updated about ever evolving management guidelines related to COVID-19. I am feeling blessed as I have made a good recovery from the COVID-19 infection, which I contracted earlier on in this pandemic. The support of my relatives and colleagues, in this difficult time is very important. It is like starting a new life.

I am in the hospital after a few minutes’ walk. Although spring is in full bloom, the weather is lovely and flowers are tempting but roads, streets and parks are empty, reflecting effective practice of social distancing which is encouraging. As compared to a calm and quiet town, the hospital is busier than usual. A nurse has welcomed me at reception by checking my temperature. I am working on a ward specifically designated for patients who are affected by COVID-19. After getting an overview of the patients from my colleagues, I begin assessing patients. It is mandatory to use hand gel before gowning up with full PPE (personal protective equipment). We have attended multiple mandatory practice sessions, run by the infection control team, to ensure proper donning and doffing of PPE. Similarly removing PPE and disposing of it in a proper fashion is equally important.

At 11 am, a patient has been transferred from the Emergency Department. The patient’s lungs have been badly damaged by cigarette smoke and now the COVID-19 virus has exacerbated the situation. We have decided to give him oxygen via a CPAP machine which is specifically designed to deliver oxygen to the lungs via a mask at high pressure and thus helps in improving saturation of oxygen in the blood. The enthusiasm of nursing staff and health care assistants in managing this particular patient is exemplary. Doing this challenging work and making critical decisions, while in PPE in a high risk environment, needs special commitment and it’s encouraging to be a part of such a professional team.

While busy with the patients I have totally forgotten to take lunch so I have grabbed a vegetable sandwich with tea and headed towards the boardroom to attend a meeting lead by the medical director. On the way I am glad to meet a couple of my colleagues who have also returned to work after being affected by COVID-19 but thankfully they have recovered and are back to work. In the meeting with the clinical team, statistics of the pandemic in Ireland are being discussed and updates regarding new guidelines have been given. It seems that with effective social distancing and well synchronized efforts throughout the country we will be able to flatten the curve.

In the afternoon I am reviewing patients again, including the patient transferred earlier from the Emergency Department. Blood tests and other parameters are pointing in the right direction as the level of oxygen in the blood is much better now. The rest of the shift is spent reviewing all patients on the ward and talking to families of patients on the phone. The time I get to leave the hospital depends on how busy I am, which can often be late in the evening.

At home my wife has welcomed me with a tasty dinner of roasted chicken marinated in Indian spices. After dinner I attend online lectures on COVID-19 conducted by the Royal College of Physicians, Ireland. Senior clinicians from different specialities, mainly Anaesthesia, Obstetrics and Epidemiology, have shared their experience but the most interesting talk is from a guest speaker from London, who has mentioned details of NHS Nightingale Hospital, a dedicated hospital for COVID-19 patients with capacity of about 4,000 beds. To relax in the evening, I take some photos of flowers in my lawn and communicate with parents on WhatsApp.

In summary, the hospital routine has changed considerably due to this outbreak of COVID-19 i.e, dress code, steps to control infection, pattern of meetings among hospital staff, this has all has changed. I am pleased to see the responsible attitude of the public in this difficult situation where social distancing is a corner stone in controlling infection. Caring for our loved ones, especially elderly, by staying away from them can save their lives. It is very important to stay positive in this time of crisis. With combined efforts of different sections of society we are able to restrict this highly infectious virus and I am quite optimistic that we shall keep getting the same kind of support from public.