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When a Thoracic Surgeon became ICU Nurse

Dr Joel Dunning from James Cook University Hospital,started working as a nurse at the ICU to help out the already burdened staff

Joel Dunning
Joel Dunning

Recently, Dr Joel Dunning, a thoracic surgeon at the James Cook University Hospital, Middlesbrough, UK, started working as a nurse at the Intensive Care Unit to help out the already burdened hospital. Learning from a senior nurse through a brief training process, Dr Dunning worked through a 12-hour shift observing nurse’s routine and doing as instructed. “I have changed from being a consultant thoracic surgeon to an ICU Nurse to help with the intense pressures on our ICU now,” he twitted afterwards.

“I am still learning, and I will never be as competent as our full-time ICU nurses, but I now feel equipped to put in a shift without disturbing staff too much with questions”, he shared.


Working through his shift, Dr Dunning took blood gases, drew up propofol and fentanyl, attended to the patient’s four-hourly turning, mouth care, medication administration via the nasogastric (NG) tube and learnt how to monitor the ventilator and endotracheal tube (ET). Over the next few days, Dr Dunning was able to take up a fully independent shift, looking after a ventilated patient.

Dr Dunning’s tweet has created an awareness amongst the common people on the risks taken by the doctors and nurses taking care of patients critically ill with COVID19.

Reservist Army

With electives surgeries and procedures being widely postponed during the pandemic, an abundance of hospital staff are now freed up to stand in place of overworked or infected healthcare workers while they are into quarantine.

The ICU nursing team has been working round the clock to create the NHSreservist army of people who can be mobilised to look after ventilated patients safely. While the NHS trust is planning to increase the provision of ventilated beds, the team is gearing up for the anticipated load by providing daily training for theatre nurses, operating department practitioners and other nurses from a non-ICU background, including lecture-based training and pairing up with ICU nurses on shifts.

The biggest challenge will be maintaining the one-to-one nurse ratio during the COVID-19 crisis. “We are all stepping up to the challenge”, a hopeful Dr Dunning says. “If like me you are in the NHS but working less to free up space for COVID patients, can I encourage you to #put-in-a-shift in your ICU to help them out !” he Twitted. Hopefully with the support of the team of ‘reservists’ the team will prove successful in keeping each patient as safe as if they were being cared for in normal times. currently

There are currently more than 171,000 confirmed coronavirus cases in the UK and more than 26,700 deaths. The actual number of cases is estimated to be higher. Until recently, it was mostly just those in hospitals, a few NHS and care staff who were being tested but the testing programme is now being extended.


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