Susan Eriksen, Respiratory Physiotherapist – specialty in heart failure

What does your role normally involve ?

Day to day I normally treat patients on the heart failure unit to help with many things, including their rehabilitation during their stay; planning for discharge; and providing them with education to improve their exercise tolerance once they are home.

How has it changed as a result of Covid-19?

I have moved to intensive care to help with the on-going expansion of the Trust’s ventilated beds to accommodate the most critically unwell Covid-19 patients.

Physiotherapists normally work in intensive care to help with patients weaning from ventilators, clearing their chest of sputum, or rehabilitating them from their illness.

Now more than ever those specialist skills are required for Covid-19 patients. However, we are also changing the way we work on our intensive care units to help provide support to the wider team. We are now working in pods which consist of physiotherapists, doctors, nurses, and care staff to bring a team approach to patient care.

On top of our usual respiratory physiotherapy input, we are also helping nursing staff with un-proning, repositioning and cleaning of patients, covering breaks, and completing any tasks we can to help accommodate to the change in skill mix on the units.

When I am not working in the pod I am spending time upskilling physiotherapists from other areas of the hospital to feel more confident in an intensive care setting so we have enough staff to cover the pods as they increase in number.

What is the most interesting thing about your change in role?

It’s nice to feel that you can help support those nursing colleagues who feel less confident in an area they have been redeployed themselves. This has also been a great opportunity to raise the profile of physiotherapists in the critical care setting.

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

Everyone has been greatly appreciative of our added input into the team which makes the hard work seem really worthwhile. We now spend the whole day with our intensive care colleagues which I feel has really helped with the change to pod working as there is a feeling of unity.

What is the hardest thing about the current circumstances?

A full week in the pod can be quite exhausting. We are cycling in and out from week to week so that we all get that important opportunity for a bit of down time. Self-care is so crucial right now for everyone.