While wearing a mask, what had become second nature in my training was immediately challenged as I started work. Behind my mask, patients couldn’t see the empathy that I was expressing or the fear on my face during my first few days of work. And, behind their masks, I couldn’t see the colour in my patients’ faces as I approached their beds or the tears running down their cheeks as they recalled recent events.
Adapting skills to a new working environment
I had to adapt so many of my essential skills in order to develop relationships with my patients, to build their trust in me and to get to know them well enough, to deliver optimal and personalised care. To achieve this, as always, I learnt and took inspiration from those around me. I observed as my colleagues took extra time to introduce themselves to new patients; I used friends, family and mirrors to rehearse expressing myself with visible parts of my face and I took inspiration from clinicians around the world with their creations such as photos of themselves on their scrubs.
We asked Molly to share the tips she picked up on the wards working as an interim doctor during the pandemic.
Over time, I adapted what I knew to this new way of work and felt as though I could deliver equally good care. I hope the skills that I have learned will be useful as our healthcare environment adapts in the future and I am certain that my appreciation for the importance of non-verbal communication will stay with me during my development as a doctor.
Despite the challenges, I now feel ready to start work as an FY1 doctor and I am prepared for the challenges that will come working during the pandemic. I have learned how to work with uncertainty, I have learned the importance of working in a team, I have developed the confidence to ask questions, I have learned how to adapt my skills to a changing environment and I have learned how rewarding a career in medicine can be. All that I have learned as an interim foundation doctor will be so valuable at the start of my career and I am so looking forward to getting started.
Molly Dineen completed her medical degree at the University of Exeter along with an intercalated MSc in Clinical Education. She graduated early during the COVID-19 pandemic, taking up an interim foundation role at the Royal Cornwall Hospitals Trust. Molly started an academic foundation training post at the Royal Devon & Exeter Hospital in August.
Molly has interests in medical education, medical research and general practice and hopes to pursue a career in one or more of these areas. In her spare time, Molly plays netball, tennis and football and enjoys life by the sea!
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