Covid-19: Stories from the frontline

From the frontline we hear from Dr. Finola Ryan, Specialist Registrar in Occupational Medicine

Dr Finola Ryan

“I'm a Specialist Registrar in Occupational Medicine. I'm part of a multidisciplinary team with doctors, nurses, Health Care Assistants (HCAs), physiotherapists, occupational therapists, and administrative staff. We assess a range of work-related health issues and help people to stay at work or to return to work following accident or illness.

“For an Occupational Physician, COVID-19 has been really interesting and challenging. I have been combining my clinical knowledge with my understanding of employment, anti-discrimination, and health and safety law in the presence of a new virus. I have followed guidance from Public Health England and needed to keep up to date with these dynamic and sometimes turbulent conditions. I have been sharing knowledge with the broader team, problem-solving and developing strategies to stay current with the issues we have been facing.

“The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the health of the workforce fits in perfectly with Occupational Health. We advise employees if they need to self-isolate and when it is suitable for them to return to work. Our colleagues in HR have been an enormous help to my team in this respect. We help managers follow good practice and enable their staff to undertake their role safely, for example, making adjustments for employees who are at increased risk of severe illness from COVID-19. Our nurses and Occupational Health advisors have stepped up to this task.

“We are involved in preventing work-related illnesses like irritant facial dermatoses or pressure effects due to PPE, and we've worked with our colleagues in Dermatology, Tissue Viability, and Infection Prevention & Control to come up with creative and practical solutions to these new issues. We've relished the opportunity to work with other disciplines within the Trust.

“In the true NHS spirit, our team just pulled together and joined forces with our colleagues in HR to stay afloat. We have daily briefings using video calling to maintain social distancing, and this gives everyone a chance to share good feedback or challenges and work through complex cases as a team.

“I've been so impressed by the many creative solutions to the new issues that have cropped up due to COVID-19. Everyone has pulled together to find swift solutions to deal with the volume of queries efficiently, and both our clinical and non-clinical teams have kept themselves well informed to share the best available evidence with the whole team.”