The Story of an Agency ODP with Applocum

I don’t want to bore anyone but want to give you a bit of history before I talk about my recent and ongoing experiences during these crazy times.



I have always worked in healthcare since leaving school in 1991, I started my career as a healthcare worker on the children’s ward and then progressed to maternity. I always wanted to become a midwife but once I did my first shift in maternity theatre I knew that theatres would be the career for me. I commenced my ODP training in 1998 thanks to a supportive and encouraging manager. I never thought I would be able to complete the course as I did not do very well at school. I was lucky enough to get in with an entrance ODP exam and within two years I was a fully-fledged ODP working in anaesthetics and recovery. I have always loved theatre as it is so acute and we have an amazing relationship with all of the staff that we work with, as we work as such a close team. It also amazes me what we are able to do to help the patients that come through theatres. I have seen many lives saved and many people’s lives improved due to incredible skills of the surgeons.


In 2006 I decided to leave the NHS and further my career in the teaching sector, where I gained my Teaching Diploma and Health and Social care Degree, but after 6 years I began to miss my theatre family. Although I continued to work on the bank at a private hospital as an ODP while I was teaching, this wasn’t enough. So, I left teaching and came back to full-time practice.


I became a theatre manager at a private hospital in 2016 but after 3 years realised I did not like management as I was missing my clinical practice so left my job to work clinically within private hospitals and NHS hospitals alike either on the agency or hospital bank.


Covid-19 Outbreak

If you would have asked me 6 months ago if I would be working in an Critical Care (CCU) setting during a pandemic I would have laughed at the idea, but that is currently exactly what I am doing.


Once the Covid-19 outbreak occurred all of my regular work in theatre and teaching stopped, but luckily I had joined AppLocum and they offered me some work in an NHS hospital. Initially, I worked my first week in theatre but it became very apparent that they did not require my services in theatre, I was needed in CCU with Covid positive patients.


We underwent a day’s training which was actually very enlightening and interesting and gave me some insight into what I was about to undertake, but in reality, nothing prepared me both mentally or physically for my first day working in CCU. The staff were and continue to be amazing and so supportive, but seeing patients face down in beds and realising how many young patients are being ventilated my age or younger was one of the most difficult things I have ever witnessed in my career, and the scale of it is immense.


Initially, I was scared for my safety even though we have the full PPE, I went into self-preservation mode for a few days becoming very anxious, I also felt so out of my depth and comfort zone as I have not stepped foot into a CCU for about 12 years and things change.


After a couple of shifts, I began to feel much better with the equipment, drugs and knowing where things were. The staff can be very stressed as they are responsible for not only more than one patient but are having to support us, while we gain confidence, but that is completely understandable as none of us have ever had to go through anything like this before.


Rollercoaster Month

The past month has been a bit of a roller coaster, I have felt like a student at times and had brain overload, had days when I have felt so proud of myself for what I have learned and achieved and other days when patients have deteriorated in front of my eyes and not been there when I have gone onto shift the next day. This virus has no boundaries and seems to have no rhyme or reason, but all of the staff including the non CCU trained staff are amazing and are fighting every day to save people’s lives. I have grown in confidence each day and I am having days where I require very little input from the CCU staff as I am able to get on with the day to day care, but they are always there if I need them, and at times I have had to shout for help when the patient takes a turn for the worse.


It’s not all positive though, the shifts are long, wearing layer upon layer of PPE, boiler suit, apron, two pairs of gloves, visor and those awful FFP3 masks that make you feel like you can’t breathe at times. The masks leave awful marks on your cheekbones and nose and the marks can be there for hours after the shift. I feel hot within minutes of wearing the kit and count the hours down to break time, just to be able to breathe again and cool down. Breaks are staggered throughout the 13-hour shift and we try to have three, but this means that we are not able to drink while wearing the PPE and not being able to leave to go to the toilet until break time, so I feel dehydrated and completely drained by the end of the shift. I have had a horrible taste in my mouth since wearing the masks which again lasts for hours after the shift and I am currently only able to manage three to four shifts a week, which is unheard of for me as I have always worked at least 50-60 hours a week, but I just can’t manage it.


Clap for Carers

But for all of the difficult times, there are the amazing times, I have witnessed two patients leaving CCU, being stepped down to the ward and this week I left the hospital at 8pm on Thursday night and had the most overwhelming sense of pride as I took part in the clap for key workers outside of the hospital. There were ambulances, staff and a bagpipe band, as well as cars beeping their horns as they drove passed and people shouting and clapping from nearby windows. That makes this journey all worthwhile for me and I know that even though sometimes I go home and cry because the days are so difficult, emotionally for me I would not want to be anywhere else right now rather than helping and supporting the NHS, and Applocum who have also been so supportive throughout this by keeping in touch and genuinely asking if we are ok, have made this possible for me.


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