Macmillan Specialist Speech & Language Therapist, Chloe Jarvis and Occupational Therapist, Helen Ashbourne-Cordiner have shared their experience of being part of a new multidisciplinary team in the face of COVID-19:
Chloe Jarvis: Speech & Language Therapist
Usually I am the Macmillan Specialist Speech & Language Therapist (SLT) for head and neck cancer, however as more COVID cases started being admitted I volunteered to take the lead for managing the communication and swallowing needs of those patients in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU). It was challenging balancing both roles, as I have no cover for my usual job, but I loved being part of the rehabilitation MDT. Speech & language therapists play such an important part in a patient’s recovery and it’s been great to be able to highlight that whilst working so closely with other professions. Initially it was daunting putting on all the PPE and entering ICU for the first time, but gradually I got used to it and it just became a normal part of my working life. I also didn’t really know what to expect from these patients and how they would present during assessment. It’s been a huge learning curve but I’m pleased that I’ve been able to support people to eat, drink and speak again following such a major illness.
Now that things are moving back to ‘new normal’, I’ve had to take a step back to support my regular patients. It will be interesting to see how COVID has impacted on cancer patients, as I expect some people may have ignored symptoms as they didn’t want to come into hospital. That will be the next challenge, but we may not see the true impact for some time.
Helen Ashbourne-Cordiner: Occupational Therapist
Initially I was apprehensive about joining the team and working on the Covid wards as I was unsure about what to expect. However I found it to be a fantastic experience. The team worked in a very MDT focused way, where you felt that there was a true collaboration between professionals. It really felt like everyone pulling together, in what was the unknown for all of us.
I think the most rewarding part for me was providing rehab for patients. Usually as an acute OT there is limited capacity to do this. However as part of the Covid rehab team I was able to see patients on multiple occasions and see the progress they were making. It encouraged me to think differently when working with people and be creative in the things I was doing with them. I had never used the rehab garden before and this was such as brilliant resource to have and to be able to take people outside the hospital to be in the fresh air and sunshine made a huge difference to them and their emotional wellbeing. In terms of working with ICU patients it was amazing to see them make such huge steps in their rehab journey, from being unable to walk and care for themselves to walking out of hospital and not requiring any additional support at home.
Although Covid has been a really challenging time I have really valued the experience it has given me in terms of my professional development and working as part of a well-integrated MDT.