Alumnus profile: Harry Canagasabey
How has the COVID-19 outbreak changed the way you work?
The pandemic has changed workloads significantly in all our departments, particularly in A&E. We have seen a complete A&E redesign and ITU wards springing up wherever we find the space. We run mobile XRs (X-Rays) for the entire hospital from A&E, and as most Covid-19 XRs are either wal- in via A&E chest X-Rays, or inpatient/in A&E mobile chest XRs, we have seen an enormous spike in this type of work. Conversely, work in other areas such as our general, fluoroscopic and theatre departments, has vastly decreased as only emergency and “must perform” procedures being imaged. So what does this mean for an individual radiographer? It means that most of your day is spent imaging chests, washing your hands, donning and doffing PPE and cleaning equipment with strong chemicals. It is also a good idea to moisturise your hands a lot, else your skin will start to get damaged!
What is the biggest challenge about this new way of working, and what has helped overcome this?
There are two major challenges: 1) Performing the same X-Ray over an over is pretty 2-dimensional when you are used to seeing a vast array of ailments. This tempts “switching off”, as most repetitive actions do but our role during this pandemic is critical and as one of the staffing groups most frequently moving between different patient groups, it is important to stay sharp and maintain high levels of personal infection control. 2) Stagnation of training and progression. At this time it is difficult for us to provide training not only to students but also to Radiographers. This delays Radiographers building on their skillset, which can play on your mind. However, this period is a huge learning experience for everyone involved and one day, the knowledge and skills gained from this augmented working will be viewed as unique experience and likely help you to progress with your career.
How are you working to tackle the outbreak in your role?
Our direct involvement is with partially with diagnosis but heavily aimed at management and monitoring. Imaging is one of the best ways to see how a patient’s lungs are responding to the virus and can heavily guide next steps in management. Also, as with all staff and members of the public, we can directly tackle the problem through good infection control and physical distancing wherever possible.
How did the experience and skills gained at St George’s help prepare you for the current situation?
The most helpful thing George’s gave me for this pandemic is infection control training. Knowing the correct procedure to follow is useful. Also, the mobile chest X-Ray practice as a student certainly is not hurting at the moment!
What helps you stay positive during this challenging time?
Public support for the NHS has been great. Things like clap for NHS, discounts, messages of support and general appreciation have been heard behind the hospital’s doors. It is not often someone’s career is universally recognised as “heroic” and so that has helped me, the whole radiography team and the entire NHS, to stay very positive even whilst some of us have taken ill.
Do you have any advice or a message to others working on the front line to keep the public safe?
We, the NHS as a whole, have already proven we can handle anything and right now is our time in the spotlight. That can be pretty daunting and it is scary knowing you are at direct risk. You may only affect your actions and those of the people directly around you but the net result is much greater than the sum. Keep it up, pay attention to infection control and know that soon, we will move on.
What advice would you give to current students who may be about to enter the workplace, or are volunteering, during the outbreak?
My advice is the same irrespective of your position during this pandemic as, when it comes to the basics, we are all equally important in getting the virus under control. Be sure to maintain high levels of personal infection control practice, physically distance where you can and use PPE appropriately. Beyond that basic advice, remember that your patients are people, people who may never have needed the kind of care you will provide before. As you become accustomed to whatever your position is during this outbreak, it is all too easy to forget that a kind demeanour with patients, colleagues and most importantly, yourself, will go much further than you think.