Cardiothoracic consultant Joel Dunning’s normal working week involves performing lung cancer surgery, seeing patients before and after operations and meeting colleagues to pull together treatment plans. But after the number of procedures were drastically reduced as all resources were targeted at the coronavirus battle, Joel decided to become an ICU nurse. He started training two weeks ago, and says the few shifts he has already done have made him a better doctor. “Usually, I perform surgery then walk away leaving the nursing staff to follow through care of the patient. I’ll have seen them in the clinic before and again post-op,” he says.
“But I am now looking after one person for 12 hours at a time and it really is a different but very moving experience for me. “Last week, I shampooed and styled the hair of a 70-year-old lady in ICU. I wanted her to look nice as she lay in her bed. I treated her with the same dignity as I would want my mum to be treated.
“My ICU colleagues told me I had done a reasonable job! I know I work with my hands but I don’t think I’ll ever become a hairdresser.”
Joel, 47, spent two 12-hour shifts being supervised by ICU nurses at the James Cook University Hospital in Middlesbrough where he normally works in the operating theatre so he could feel confident in his new high-pressure role. “I always respected my nursing colleagues and I know ICU nursing is intense, but my admiration of them has tripled in recent days,” he says.
“I could see the crisis worsening and knew the number of ICU beds at James Cook was increasing from 25 to 104, so obviously more specialist nurses would be needed. It was a no-brainer.
“On my supervised shifts, I shadowed the nurses and questioned them about anything I was unsure of. They then supervised me as I did everything from a patient’s personal care, feeding them and rolling them to prevent bed sores.