In my own words: A resident doctor in an isolation ward

Updated: 05 April, 2020 13:07 IST | Gitanjali Chandrasekharan | Mumbai

Sneha Sharma, 25, a resident doctor at a SoBo hospital, where a state-of-the-art isolation ward for COVID-19 patients has been set up, on what life has brought her in the last two weeks

Dr Sneha Sharma, along with two other resident doctors, volunteered for duty in the isolation ward. She says spending long hours in the Personal Protective Equipment suits, can prove to be frustrating but she tries to keep her focus on the goal
Dr Sneha Sharma, along with two other resident doctors, volunteered for duty in the isolation ward. She says spending long hours in the Personal Protective Equipment suits, can prove to be frustrating but she tries to keep her focus on the goal

Having completed my MBBS degree two years ago, I started working as a resident in 2019, and was posted at the in-patient department in the general ward.

Personally, for me, there was never one aha moment when I realised that I wanted to become a doctor. I was good at academics and it seemed like a natural choice. And so far, the job, has been satisfactory and filled with purpose. When a patient or a relative appreciates what you do, it feels good.

Our duties at the hospital's in-patient department is to give patients symptomatic treatment, get their blood tests done, and coordinate with the consulting doctor.

A couple of weeks ago, when the government announced that private hospitals would also have to set up isolation wards for the treatment of COVID-19 suspected and confirmed patients, our administration called the resident doctors in and said it would require us for the job. I, along with two others, volunteered. After all, when you decide to become a doctor, this is what you sign up for. The Coronavirus is a highly infectious virus, but to deny services at this time would be going against the ethics of the profession.

But, it was only when we started training that we realised how risky this assignment was. A large part of the training focused on how to get in and out of the Personal Protective Equipment. These are similar to the Hazmat suits being used in China, but not the same. They are of two types, reusable and disposable. We use the reusable ones since they are easier to work with when you are wearing them for long hours. In addition to that, when you enter the ward, you have to wear masks to cover your eyes, an N95 mask and double gloves just in case one layer tears. The training was largely for the suits. How to wear and remove them without contacting infection. Once we remove the suits, they go into a machine where they undergo a chemical cleaning process.

But it's suffocating to wear the suits for the long hours required. There are three of us on COVID-19 duty at a time and we work in eight-hour shifts.

Work is the same. We examine the patients, check their reports and how their vitals are doing. At the hospital currently, we have nine patients who have tested positive and one is in the ICU. There's another ICU dedicated for suspected cases.

Sharma now lives in the hospital and hasn’t seen her family in two weeks
Sharma now lives in the hospital and hasn't seen her family in two weeks

Our ward has six staff members at a time—three nurses, two housekeeping staff and myself. If we need help with a case, we coordinate with the senior doctors who are available on the phone. They come once a day to check on the patients.

The condition of every patient differs. There are some who have tested positive but show no symptoms. Some need special care. We manage their symptoms, including fever (in which case we are bringing down their temperature), shortness of breath (they are put on ventilators), etc.

Symptoms can get aggravated among senior citizens or those with a pre-existing heart condition. In such cases, the infection flares up, and the patient needs constant monitoring.

The situation in India is not as severe as say, in the US or Italy. Whatever happens in India in the coming months, we will face it.
My family lives with me here in Mumbai but I haven't seen them since I started the assignment at the ward. They were worried when I signed up for COVID duty, but it was eventually my decision.

We have been allotted our own rooms in the hospital. However, we are not in isolation. We move around, go to the canteen, talk to colleagues keeping safe distance. We have been told to watch out for symptoms, of course. The hospital has been my world for two weeks.

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First Published: 05 April, 2020 07:24 IST

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