In 10 years, when we look back, I can proudly say I’ve tried to play my part

Alex Beechey, Senior MSK physiotherapist in Herts Valleys tells us how life has changed clinically and personally, during Covid-19.

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Connect Health has been the perfect foundation for my career whilst totally supporting my personal ambitions

I joined Connect Health in January 2018 and over the last year, I have been consolidating my role and taking on more responsibility by supporting an ADP (Advanced Development Practitioner) who has been assigned to me as part of both of our learning and development.

Coronavirus – I felt compelled to offer my services

At the beginning of the Covid-19 outbreak, my service manager asked if anyone has the flexibility or capacity to help and deliver care to the wider NHS community in Herts Valleys. We are continuing to support our MSK patients remotely from the laptop at home via telephone and video consultations, offering diagnosis, education and treatment.

However, given the fact that this is a massive pandemic globally, you only have to look at the news and see the incredible work the Doctors & Nurses are doing and how overworked they are, in addition to other frontline staff in all sectors. So I was really keen to help out in a hospital or the Nightingale in London and utilise my wider skill set. In some ways, I felt obligated to do so, empathetic, aware of the situation and employed under a Connect Health NHS contract.

I was influenced by my grandfather’s experience during the war

I’ve always respected and had great admiration for my grandparents and my grandpa would tell me about his experiences during the time period of the second world war. He and many other men didn’t get a choice throughout harder times than now perhaps, and so I really felt compelled to volunteer.

After a couple of weeks, I received the news that I would be redeployed at the Peace Hospice in Watford to deliver care on an intensive palliative care unit (IPU) and I had my first day on 23 April 2020.

Whilst everyone at Connect Health has done mandatory training on PPE and Covid-19, there was a request for volunteers with a background in respiratory and physio. When at university (2016-18) I did my placements within intensive care and on a respiratory ward as well as an elderly care placement so it all seemed to fall into place.

The wider objective is to support the whole care system

I mostly work with terminal cancer care patients, as the regular physios had been redeployed onto the front line and they needed cover. It is a bit of a free role and I am helping patients with their independence, mobility and dignity. I’m here to help in any way I can, which means the doctors and consultants can be freed up from mundane chores etc, to do what they do best.

 

I’m pulled in any direction – I’m just glad I’m here to help, in whatever way, to help anyone.

 

The patients are a mix between very unwell to quite well (to the eye). My perception was everyone would be very poorly. But some people could get up and have good conversations. My job was to be an empathetic human being and just help – I love to listen.

When I volunteered, I thought I would end up in a hospital in a coronavirus ward just because I’d heard stories from talking to friends who have been redeployed from Connect Health and elsewhere. However, at the moment, we have generally been filling in for physios and therefore able to utilise our clinical skills to some degree at least.

Everyone around me is wearing PPE

From the first moment I arrived, the PPE, hand hygiene and social distancing rules were drilled into me as you would expect. I’m wearing scrubs, gloves, a face mask and goggles and then an additional face mask and apron if I have to support someone with symptoms.

When you are with the patient and trying to build rapport, it feels like I’m wearing a Halloween costume. I do think body language is important and of course the masks make it more difficult to express emotion but we do our best. You can’t tell if someone is smiling or frowning!

I felt a real sense of team cohesion

My supervisor whom I spoke to when I first arrived, provided me my list of patients and directed me towards the routine ward round with the multi-disciplinary-team (MDT). I chose to embrace the situation and immerse myself right away, and as a result felt comfortable and supported from day one. The consultants are all so knowledgeable and experienced. The nurses are outstanding for certain.

There was a welfare officer and speech & language therapist who were acting as healthcare assistants – Everyone is mucking in to do the best for everyone on the ward. I was the only one from the independent sector – everyone else had come from NHS or elsewhere in the hospice.

My shift is 9am-5pm every Thursday. They have another physio who fills in on the other days and are keen to keep the MDT a feature so didn’t want a day when there was no physio on site.

I was due to go to an Olympic training camp in America in April

The Olympics have now been postponed to 2021 and I will continue to strive to be able to compete in the 200m individual or either of the relay teams, however the standard is very high. There are other major international competitions also, such as the European Athletics Championships in Paris, also cancelled. Connect Health has been very supportive and flexible allowing me to reduce my hours to focus on my athletics, so I had taken a sacrifice financially in order to commit to the Olympic year.

Whilst it is disappointing, I realise there is more to it than just the competitive side. If someone asks me why I put myself through the pain and intensity of training, I say I love the participation and the escapism it provides, the social camaraderie, the self-improvement, the feeling of being in superhuman shape and having a purpose outside of work. I currently use a public local track, the park at the side of my house, and my garden to weight train and thankfully the weather has been okay. However long this period of uncertainty lasts for, if there are any competitions this year, I’ll make sure I’m ready, and if there isn’t, I’ll be ready for 2021. If you stay ready, you don’t have to get ready!

 

It’s pretty surreal as I’m helping with the Covid-19 outbreak and have had to postpone my training for the Olympics. I’m so motivated and committed to my own dreams, that I will continue to maintain my current condition and stay on the right track. But for now, I believe the right thing to do, is to try and play my part and help where I am able.

 

The positive effects of lockdown

Whilst it has been challenging for us all, it has also been refreshing because you have the time to do things that you wouldn’t have had before. I live with my sister so it’s great to spend a lot more time together, balancing home working, athletics and general home life. The recent TikTok craze has been really funny and also, I’ve learnt to cut my own hair albeit taking 2 hours!

I love the carers clap on a Thursday

I get back home on a Thursday about 6pm, so complete some yoga and have some dinner, then it’s time for the carers clap. It’s really nice to give something back and I’m happy that I’m playing a part.

 

Across the Connect Health Herts Valleys CCG team, we have redeployed 6 people into the NHS front line so far, whether that’s working in a Rehab Team on a ward to enable people to be discharged home quicker or in physio roles in various other locations such as Neuro or Inpatients. Whatever role we get asked to do, we know that it’s helping somewhere for the greater good.

 

If you’d like to find out more about working at Connect Health, contact hr@connecthealth.co.uk

Click here to download Alex Beechey’s Story

 

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