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Health practitioners share their pandemic experiences

01 Nov 2021

In the first of two Being a health practitioner during a pandemic episodes, Taking care host Tash Miles speaks with junior doctors about the toll of working in a pandemic and how that has affected their personal lives.

Dr Charles Jenkinson, is cardiothoracic surgeon final year trainee and Chair of the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons Trainees' Association. He left his young family in Perth just before the pandemic hit to work in Sydney.

‘We’ve not been able to spend much time together as a family… there’s been a lot of FaceTime bedtimes,’ Dr Jenkinson said.

Aside from mastering his Minecraft abilities with his daughter, Dr Jenkinson has also felt the impact at work, especially at the beginning he noticed the team dynamic changed, as ‘we started splitting up ward rounds rather than doing them together,’ he said.

The impact of a key part of his work, transplants, has also had to be reimagined.

‘We’ve sent organs to other states when those team are not able to travel.’

The overhaul of processes and procedures rings true for Melbourne emergency department junior doctor, Sophie Thorn.

‘It was quite a scary time [with a] lot of restructuring of things. The team overhauled the way that patients entered the department and the way they were treated once we were in there, and the way the doctors and nurses interacted with the patients,’ Dr Thorn said.

She also speaks about some of the other smaller changes, such as wearing full protective gear, and the big impact this had on those with language barriers and hearing difficulties.

For Dr Thorn, who lives with another doctor, the impact of furloughed staff from outbreaks was all too real, especially when her housemate had two potential exposures in quick succession and needed to quarantine for a total of 28 days.

‘It really hit home how long 14 days is … it made me a bit more scared to go to work every day thinking that might also happen to me.’

Both Dr Thorn and Dr Jenkinson are grateful of the support of colleagues and the community.

‘In August last year when there essentially no interstate travel possible I had a head of department ... come up to me, tap me on the shoulder – from 1.5 metres away I should say – and just tell me ‘you’ve got to get home, get back to Western Australia. It doesn’t matter what it takes ... you need to get home,’ Dr Jenkinson said.

Listen to the full episode now.

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Page reviewed 1/11/2021