"This pandemic has shaken us to our very core" - a young nurse tells her story of working on the Covid-19 front line

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"This pandemic has shaken us to our very core" - a young nurse tells her story of working on the Covid-19 front line

Nóirín Sheridan

A Day in the Life of COVID-19 Frontline Worker
By Nóirín Sheridan


My name is Nóirín Sheridan and I am a Senior Speech and Language Therapist
(SLT). My usual role involves the management of a large paediatric caseload in
Tallaght, Dublin 24. However, since the 19 th of March, I have been tasked with a very
different role, working in a COVID-19 Community Testing site at Tallaght Soccer
Stadium. Here is a flavour of what a day in my life now involves.

6.30am


Myself and my husband rise and prepare for the day ahead. After breakfast, I leave
for Tallaght Stadium and he prepares for his ‘new normal’, working from home.

7.45am

Arrive at Tallaght Stadium to prepare for the day, consult the appointment system
and organise the necessary paperwork, thus ensuring the daily activity onsite will be
as seamless and safe as possible.


8.15am


I take part in our team huddle, led by one of our clinical leads. The daily schedule is
outlined, and we are reminded of the importance of safety for the public and our staff
on site as it is an infection ‘hot’ zone, with stringent infection control procedures. Two
clinicians are allocated to each testing bay, a combination of Nursing, Dental,
Dietetics and Speech and Language Therapy staff.


The broader team include, amongst others, administrative support, a team of
volunteers, who complete the check in procedure for those attending their scheduled
appointments, and a mix of army and HSE personnel who ensure our stocks and
supplies are monitored.


8.30am


We put on our scrubs and PPE is donned! As a community based paediatric SLT,
learning about ‘donning’ and ‘doffing’ PPE was new to me, as was learning how to
take a swab. I must admit that the entire process was very daunting; however, my
colleagues and I are very happy to play our part during these challenging times.


9.00am


The first clients arrive for testing, having received their appointments by text. We
have six drive-thru testing bays, with those attending on foot also facilitated.
Everyone on site, from our volunteers, through to those taking the swab samples,
understand how anxious those attending may be and we try to reassure them. The
process itself involves taking a swab from the mouth and nose. Whilst some people
may find it a little uncomfortable, it is a quick and painless process.


11.00am


A quick cuppa for the team! The safe removal of PPE and infection control is vital at
this ‘doffing’ stage. We alternate breaks to ensure we maintain social distance and
breaks are minimised to help to preserve PPE. After a quick break, we are back to
the testing bays.

1.30pm


Time for lunch and a quick walk in the sunshine within the site and back to the
testing bays!


5.00pm

The final clients attend for testing. We complete the final specimen collection and the
associated paperwork. Given the volume of specimens collected, regular collections
take place during the day. It is vital that all samples are carefully recorded as we
prepare the samples for dispatch to the lab for testing. We also feedback our
attendance data to our local co-ordinator, and it is collated with other national data to
help future planning.


6.15pm


I arrive home and complete my usual infection control routine, including clothes into
a hot wash and then into the shower. Then it’s dinner time!

7.30pm


My relaxation typically involves video-calls to my mother cocooning in Cavan, or to
my nieces and nephews dotted around the country. We always make time for a
seaside walk within our 5km zone to wind down after a busy day and the views over
Dublin Bay help to recharge the batteries!
Admittedly stepping away from my usual role as a Paediatric SLT to working on a
COVID-19 Community Testing Site was intimidating. However, I feel safe and
supported throughout, armed with the required training and with continued support
onsite. The teamwork and leadership I have experienced both onsite and in the
wider HSE have really blown me away. There is a sense of shared purpose, and this
collegiality helps me to keep positive and resilient. They say ‘kindness is key’ and the
power of a caring word to a colleague or to someone coming for testing cannot be
underestimated.
As an SLT I am very willing to lend support during this crisis, whilst remaining
conscious of those children awaiting SLT services. In order to support parents and
caregivers, we are offering phone support and home resources for children on our
caseload. As a team we will need to look at new ways to support the families we
work with in the future.
I have worked in Tallaght since 2010 and I know what a strong sense of community
there is here. This has come to the fore during this crisis, with fantastic generosity
and support from the team at Tallaght Stadium, South Dublin County Council and
local businesses. They have provided us with a great amenity benefitting both clients
and staff. We are also blessed to have a wonderful team of volunteers, from South
Dublin Volunteer Centre and further support from serving and veteran members of
the Defence Forces. It is truly a team effort at Tallaght Stadium and in years to come
I will always remember the people I shared this time with.
This pandemic has shaken us to our very core; even our funeral rituals are
unrecognisable. The harsh reality of the situation really hit home with me, as I
offered support to a grieving family who tragically lost their son in recent weeks.
Simple acts of condolence, like a handshake, or a hug, all changed. I hope that when we emerge from this long and arduous journey, we will truly value the important things in life.
The public outpouring of appreciation for frontline healthcare workers and for those
in other frontline services has been genuinely touching. I thoroughly agreed with the
sentiments of HSE CEO Paul Reid, when he said ‘I hope that we are building a new
and stronger relationship with the public during COVID-19. We are on your side and
hope that you are on ours’. This is very heartening, and I look forward to working in
new, innovative and productive ways in the future, when we emerge from these
extraordinary and difficult times.