Michelle Doyle, Highly Specialist Occupational Therapist. Neurosurgery / Neuro Intensive Care Unit

What does your role normally involve?

Neuro-occupational therapists usually provide rehabilitation to patients who have had a brain or spinal cord injury, either through a trauma, infection or tumour.

We concentrate on helping people to learn to look after themselves again and be as independent as possible. If patients need on-going rehabilitation, we make sure they are transferred to the right place. For those returning home after a change in their function and abilities, we help them achieve this by providing equipment and making minor changes to their home environments.

You led the change for the first Covid-19 wards at St George’s. Please tell us a bit more about this?

I led the occupational therapist team through the changing of our usual wards into the first Covid-19 wards. I organised the initial Personal Protective Equipment training for therapists working across Atkinson Morley wards at St George’s – we are used to wearing gloves and aprons, but not surgical masks. In the beginning, it felt as though things were moving fast and changing quickly, so we liaised with infection control to make sure we were all wearing correct PPE and following the guidelines.

Our roles started to move away primarily from acute rehabilitation to focus on discharging patients who were ready to go home. We had to think about how we would safely help people recovering from Covid-19 return home.

We developed a different model of working, keeping one therapist off the wards to complete all the admin jobs (of which there are many when organising discharge from hospital!). We rotate this role to give the occupational therapists a break from being on the Covid-19 wards, and avoid burn out.

What has most impressed you about the response of staff/colleagues?

So many of my colleagues have stepped up and nothing is too much trouble! They are all still smiling and everyone is supporting each other – this situation has brought us all closer as a team. I genuinely feel like I’m surrounded by so many amazing and inspiring people and without them all by my side, I wouldn’t have been able to do my job.

What is the hardest thing about the current circumstances?

Uncertainty, and increased pressure on everybody, but the team response has been great.