Reflections with Julia: ‘It was a privilege to be able to go to work during a pandemic’

26 May 2021Interview

In the third and final ODP interview of this series, we were lucky enough to catch some time with the very busy Barbara O’Donnell, a Band 7 ODP, looking after a team of anaesthetic nurses and ODPs. Her team works cross-speciality, with all patient groups and across the hospital.

Here Barbara describes her team’s response to the pandemic, remaining stalwart despite the pressures around them and continuing to provide the best possible care for patients.

Julia: What was your experience when the pandemic hit?

Barbara: “Things got incredibly busy, very quickly. There was a definite sense of rising to meet the challenge and to quickly marshal the new information that was coming to us, so that we could best meet our patients' needs.

“Working throughout was not really a departure from my regular day-to-day work, since one of the roles I do takes me all around the hospital anyway. If anything, the ODP skill set is well placed to meet the clinical demands of caring for COVID patients.”

What were the biggest challenges you faced?

“The biggest challenges were staffing and managing any anxieties I had myself, so that I could look after my patients and team properly.”

How did all of this impact your personal life and circumstances?

“It may sound funny to say this, but it was a privilege to be able to go to work during a pandemic, to maintain some degree of normality, even if the bus that takes you to work is nearly empty.”

What got you through these times?

“What got me through was family, fantastic colleagues, good friends, books and art.”

What would you say are the most important things you have learned as the pandemic has progressed?

“I learned that possibly one of the most important parts of my role is to really listen, so that I can understand how to do my best for my patients and colleagues.

“I also learned that I can still surprise myself. At one point, we had to learn a specific skill in relation to a piece of equipment. It looked impossible at first glance. I had the teaching session and then was able to cascade that training to colleagues more quickly than I had expected.”

Are there any lasting changes in your role or sector to come out of the pandemic? Or any that you hope will arise?

“We're very much back to business as usual now, to continue meeting people's healthcare needs. If anything, we are more flexible than ever.

“The aim has always been to deliver the best possible care to all patients, regardless of the external things.”

What CPD have you accessed during this time?

“Arguably, all this experience has been CPD!”

Do you feel that the experience of working in the pandemic has made you a better health professional?

“I'd like to think so, but I hope that I always keep learning.”

What are your hopes for your working life in the next few months?

“I'm hoping to be able to start doing more work in Quality Improvement/research.”

A huge thank you to Barbara for taking the time to reflect with us on her experience. If you found this article useful or inspiring, we would be so grateful if you could share it on Twitter.

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