For my final blog post of the year, I thought I’d reflect on the good, the bad and the ugly of 2020. As well as reminding myself of all the things I’ve experienced and learnt this year, I hope it gives you some more insight into what it’s like to work in healthcare and what’s expected. We’ll be starting with the bad so we can end on a happier note with the good!
It’s been an exhausting year for everyone! I’m writing currently writing this on my Christmas annual leave and boy did I need it. I’ll try to ignore the fact that I’m on-call this coming week and have to work the bank holiday Monday…
On the one hand there’s been the physical side of work – sick patients avoiding hospital and arriving in a worse condition, patients catching Covid during admission and getting even sicker, looking after patients from other specialities etc. Then there’s the mental side of it – calling families, turning them away at the door, the constant changes at work, the lack of communication, the opening and closing of wards, the list could go on. As the rota-master it’s been a juggling act sorting out sufficient cover alongside my normal duties. Due to sickness, I was left without a supervisor or much managerial support which made the job even more difficult than it should be. I'd find myself trying to sort out issues when I wasn't at work which was stressing me (the f***) out.
If you know me, you know I like to travel and usually I’d holiday away all my stress and anxiety away. But of course that hasn’t really been possible this year, especially for those in healthcare where your ‘2 weeks quarantine on return’ has to either come out of your pay, or your annual leave. During the first wave of Covid, I didn’t take leave for 3 months and have been rationing out the rest to avoid burn-out.
My plans to visit family abroad, to have family over during the summer, my friends’ wedding, the get-togethers… All thwarted. And when life at work remained the same in most aspects, it was a cruel contrast to have your personal life so restricted. Although I do love to lounge on my sofa in my PJs most evenings, tier 3 life has become too boring and repetitive. That's what I have to tell myself when I begin to envy the people that can WFH - at least I get to see and speak to people outside my household at work.
I come from a a tightly-knit family who are mainly based in London. So living far off in Manchester with all the restrictions has made the distance feel even further. Around me there have been difficulties too. My sister graduated and my boyfriend finished his masters this year. They worked their butts off only to enter an ultra-competitive and basically non-existent job market. Whilst not in their ideal dream jobs, they have both managed to get jobs in the NHS! The only place that seemed to be hiring this year haha…
The above leads me nicely onto the better parts of this year and things to be grateful for. A job for one! Like most people working in healthcare, we’ve had the luxury of job security when many unfortunately haven’t. So despite the stresses at work, it’s worth it to be able to pay my mortgage, my bills and all those takeaways. I’ve flagged the lack of support at work and found the courage to make my demands clear, so hopefully things change in that respect too. The great thing about the PA role is flexibility after all, so there are always options to hand. In the midst of it all, I've also been able to improve things in the department in terms of staffing and organising weekly teaching which has kept the team well-fed and happy on a Tuesday.
I caught Covid back in March and after a couple of weeks of aches, fatigue and loosing my taste/smell, I was completely back to normal health. I didn’t know it at the time, because swabbing staff wasn’t a thing at that point, but a couple of months later my antibody test came back positive. Most of the people I work with have had Covid and luckily been ok as well. Its still worrying not knowing if my family have had it or not, but so far everyone is well. So that’s a big win in my eyes given all the unwell patients I've seen at work. Hopefully, with the vaccine rolling out, things will only get better and safer for everyone.
Back in the summer of 2018, I decided to start Not A Doctor a few months after starting my job as a PA. I spent a year writing blog posts, designing a website from scratch and thinking of ways to help people get onto the course and gain more insight into the role. But a year later I bought a house and there was quite a bit of work it needed doing, so the website and it's work was unfortunately left aside. Fast forward to the first wave of Covid and I knew it was time to breathe some sweet life back into it. This year I’ve given the website a face-lift, helped lots of people with their personal statements, interviews and even started a workshop. It’s been wonderful interacting with so many pre-PAs and students, getting feedback on my content and the good news that they’ve got on the course. The PA community on social media has grown massively since I hopped on the scene, providing inspiration, opportunities and even friends.
So out of the doom and gloom, you can always find rays of sunshine to focus on and channel your energy into. For me, I can appreciate how I've grown as a PA both clinically and non-clinically this year. I've managed to grow my small business and help more people alongside my full-time job and I'm excited to see where it goes. Sometimes it's difficult to reflect on your achievements because you expect a lot of yourself. But take a moment to appreciate all your wins - big and small - because they're important. I'm ready to do less over-thinking and be more spontaneous. To say yes to that invite to dinner/catch-up/go out. To say no to more work and not feel guilty about it.
2020 has been a real challenge but hopefully it’s taught us more about ourselves, what we’re capable of and what we want for the future. Now all that’s left to do is to enter 2021 with more courage, more positivity and more time together. I’ll see you there!
As always, if you like what you're reading feel free to leave a comment or share on social media.