Silas Webb, Junior Doctor

Silas Webb is one of our junior doctors who has been redeployed to work in our intensive care unit.

How have you found your first few weeks working in intensive care?

Last month I left my comfort zone of working in the Emergency Department to join our intensive care unit (ICU) team as they attempted the mammoth task of staffing the multifold expansion of ICU. Starting any job comes with its own apprehensions – getting to know a new team, system and way of working. But starting in the midst of a pandemic with the sickest patients in the hospital only amplifies these worries.

In reality, it has been an incredibly educational and well supported experience so far – but the days have been pretty exhausting. As well as a warm welcome from the team in intensive care, it has also been nice to meet and work with staff from all over the hospital who have also been redeployed to ICU with varying levels of experience.

Alongside doctors who usually work in plastic surgery, urology and haematology (to name but a few), I have been learning how to turn patients and set up infusions from the nurses, alter ventilator settings with the intensivists and calculate patients nutritional needs with the dieticians. The enthusiasm and willingness of staff to step out of their comfort zones and work and learn together has been truly refreshing.

What has your new role involved?

Following a week of teaching and shadowing to familiarise myself with the unit, I joined the ICU rota with a group of junior doctors. I have been helping to make daily assessments of patients, carry out ward rounds, and perform practical procedures. These include inserting lines for essential medication and monitoring, as well as ‘proning’ patients – safely turning ventilated patients on their fronts to help improve the oxygen in their lungs. This procedure is no mean feat when also trying to avoid dislodging any of the multiple lines or tubes supporting our sedated patients.

One of the hardest things we have to do is provide daily updates to families about their loved ones. I feel like I can make a difference by speaking to families, and letting them know we are doing everything we can to care for their relative. These phone calls are difficult, but it is these conversations which will be remembered by those on the end of the phone. Giving family members the time, compassion and sympathy they deserve is an essential responsibility we all have.

What advice would you give other junior doctors who have been redeployed to intensive care?

There are lots of us starting in the role for the first time with a wonderfully eclectic skill mix, so make sure you introduce yourself and make it clear what your experience is – there is no expectation to work beyond your competencies. But do be adaptable and ensure you are helping out other members of the multi-disciplinary team – even with tasks not normally performed by doctors – and relish the opportunity to learn something new. Look after each other and remember there are a lot of experienced people working day and night in the department, so always ask for help if you need it.