Pandemic – what have I learnt?

I had an unintentional hiatus from my blog for 18 months. I’m not sure why, there has been plenty to write about, maybe it’s just not having the headspace and time, maybe I just lost interest. I am sitting here on my day off pondering how I can articulate what I’m feeling about the pandemic and general practice.

I have been so tempted to write in anger about how the press has treated primary care in the past few months; implying a laziness or unwillingness to play our part. Just one day reviewing my twitter feed can ruin my day, hence I have consciously decided that I cannot dwell on the negatives. It’s important for my mental wellbeing to ignore the “bashing” and instead concentrate on what a wonderful team of people I work with. GPs across the country are doing the best they can in such difficult circumstances.

So what to write about?

I could write about the shift in consulting as a GP, or the impact a halt on routine secondary care services has had or even the difficulty we are having meeting unprecedented demand but it’s already been said.

Instead I want to write about what I’m grateful for. The past six months have been a challenge for us all in different ways and it would be churlish to make comparisons of who has had it harder. Let’s flip the conversation.

Work

I have never experienced a global pandemic. I have learnt so much on a clinical and operational level.

Using a headset makes telephone consulting so much more comfortable

At the beginning of the pandemic my day to day working life involved a lot more telephone consulting. It has been a great opportunity to hone this skill, it cannot and shouldn’t be the only way patients access healthcare but for some patient groups it has been a positive move. A special mention here for accuRx chain. Texting pictures? Who knew such a simple addition to primary care could help so much. The less said about Zoom, the better but at least I don’t have to drive miles to meetings at the moment.

I am now super speedy changing PPE between patients. Not something I thought I would be proud of when 2020 started! Did anyone else really struggle to don their apron elegantly and efficiently to start with?

I was able to further my interest in medical communications; working daily on our social media output and internal practice comms. At times I can’t lie, it felt like we were winging it. Guidance to practices felt slow at times so we had to make executive decisions to ensure we were doing the best for our patients. Having to decide day by day the safest way to provide healthcare with changing systems and new protocols was a real challenge but I relished it.

The simple act of being able to go to work.

Do you remember the time of proper full lockdown? Only go out if absolutely necessary and all that. I can’t lie, I felt so lucky to be able to drop my kids at keyworker school and then drive on to work. I had the human interaction of my work colleagues, I kept a routine and I never lost the identity that my job gives me.

I’ve been on the telly and the radio talking about general practice. My kids think it’s pretty cool even if no one else does.

Filmed for Sky News

Family

Our life was so hectic. Driving the kids to swimming lessons, brownies etc. School/childminder pick up was always a rush. I had regular evening meetings (partners/ trainers/ education…) and that meant I was often getting home and going out again. This covid-19 pandemic has forced us to slow down and I like it. Saturdays were always full on; me at parkrun and my husband generally took the kids to gym/clubs and then kids parties, shopping… Now we just see how we feel, where the weekend takes us and try not to plan too much ahead.

Mondays were my home school day…

Is it wrong to say that I picked the topics on my daughters weekly work list that interested me and I ignored the rest. It was so much fun getting to do art projects with her. It reignited a love I had for sketching. My twin sister would often do a virtual baking class with her via FaceTime and one of my others sisters read books with her.

Some of my early sketches

The addition of a puppy through lockdown (yes cliché I know) has given us another reason to consider how we spend our precious weekend family time. The pandemic has forced us to slow down, get outdoors and really consider our priorities.

Bonnie

Our holiday to France was cancelled so we had to stay local. We did a real staycation and explored more of Yorkshire… and what a county we live in. Woodland, coastline and rolling hills aplenty. We had a brilliant two week break despite the typical British weather taking a turn in late August. Next year we are planning a holiday to the Outer Hebrides which I would never have considered pre-covid.

Yearsley Woods

A special moment for me was when my mum was officially allowed to join our bubble. Seeing the kids faces give her a hug for the first time was magical.

Me

I’m trying really hard not to neglect myself. This past six months have been so stressful, I have never worked so many hours. It’s easy to rush to be negative. In February I was the fittest I have ever been. Running parkrun PBs regularly and training for the London Marathon. I was consistently attending the gym and getting out for runs as often as I could. Fast forward six months and I feel sluggish and my jeans a little tight.

I have tried to keep up running but motivation has lacked at times. I miss parkrun. I could beat myself up about the fitness I have lost – instead it’s important to remember how far I have come. I am healthy, I have a secure job and I don’t have any medical conditions that leave me vulnerable to this deadly virus. I managed to walk/run 26.2 miles of the virtual London Marathon and I’m proud of that!

I can’t pretend it has been an easy time, it really hasn’t and we have a long way to go. There are so many things I miss about pre-covid life but for now I will just ride this strange wave and take the good things that come along with it.

What have you learnt? What are your positives of the pandemic?

4 thoughts on “Pandemic – what have I learnt?

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