Dr Ramya Rajkumar

The stunning Ramya Rajkumar is not only one of the beautiful models I have been lucky enough to feature in my past Duckling In Space photo shoots, she is also a Doctor, currently working as a Geriatrics Registrar at a major Sydney hospital. I recently chatted with Ramya about how the pandemic has impacted her role at the hospital and what she has learned about herself whilst facing these unprecedented times on the front line.

Prior to the pandemic, my major roles and responsibilities at the hospital included:

Seeing geriatric patients in emergency and fast-tracking them to the ward.

Reviewing patients on the ward daily and working with the nurses and allied health teams to manage their medical and social issues. These are usually much broader than the issues that bring them in to hospital.

Discharging patients home, to rehabilitation and to nursing homes.

Supervising junior doctors.

Since the pandemic, there has been a change in how our daily workings at the hospital operate. For example, there has been a lull in the number of patients in the hospital, everyone is staying away. But everyone is preparing for an onslaught after seeing what happened in China, Italy, England and now the USA. We are increasing the number of doctors on the floor, dividing workforce teams to minimise cross-contamination, developing protocols for procedures and infection control and changing as much of our practice as is feasible to virtual rather than face-to-face.

We no longer have teaching or departmental meetings. We don't go out for lunch and less so for coffee. We now focus our efforts on keeping people out of hospital.

It's an unsettling time and the uncertainty is definitely driving a baseline level of anxiety within the hospital. This is related to what we are potentially about to face, the health of ourselves and our family and friends, the lack of a clear timeframe and concern over the impact this will have on our training and progression through our training programs.

There can be frustration with the clarity of communication and unclear protocols and in some cases a perceived lack of initiative. But overall, there are waves of positivity coming out of this: people are checking in on each other, despite knowing that there isn't much exciting news in anyone's lives. We are so grateful to be able to see and socialise with our colleagues (in an appropriately physically distant way!) at work, rather than being confined to home. Psychological wellbeing has been promoted as a key issue at all levels of governance and the message that healthcare workers' health and safety is the biggest priority is reassuring, if you can ignore the scepticism.

This is an unprecedented global event and it's surreal to be part of the efforts against it. I've seen many of my colleagues step up as leaders and have tried to do the same. Many established routines get scrapped and there is an open playing field for innovation, advocacy and drawing new lines in the sand. I've contributed to the development of our roster and protocols, which has been rewarding and inspiring. The biggest things I've learnt are that it IS possible to make change happen even from a more junior level and that if you see a problem, you need to work hard to get it fixed, even if there is resistance the first time.

Thank you Ramya. I speak for everyone when I say we are so grateful for your brave contribution in facing this pandemic and caring for us during this time. Biggest (physically distant) hugs and may you stay safe and well, Abbey xxx