ED doctor Chandu shares how Covid-19 has reinforced why he wants to be a doctor

Chandu Wickramarachchi

Chandu Wickramarachchi (pictured), a doctor in our Emergency Department, has shared his experience of working in our hospitals during the Covid-19 pandemic, and how it has reinforced the reasons why he wanted to become a doctor. Read his account in his own words below.

“Purpose is a funny little word. And right now, on the frontline of emergency medicine here at our Trust, I’m feeling more connected to my purpose as a doctor than ever before. The challenges we are facing are very different than before the pandemic, and they’re also constantly in flux, adding a layer of uncertainty to every decision. But the stuff that ‘really’ matters - making quick decisions, giving early and life-saving treatments, relieving pain or distress, and serving our communities at a time of crisis - that’s what it’s all about right now.       

I’ve been so fortunate to have my patients and their relatives write such incredibly nice things about me online on my page. Often, I worry that thinking about this praise might be a bit self-indulgent.

However, beyond any introspection, knowing that our work in this busy department has made a substantial difference to the life of a patient (or their relatives) at a time of great anxiety – well, not many things can motivate a tired doctor more, especially on a long shift.

Speaking of recognition: every Thursday at 8pm, I find myself uncharacteristically emotional. In fact, two Thursdays ago, I was on an international video call at 8pm for some research work - and completely oblivious of the day - when I heard the sound of clapping erupting over the sound of my headphones. Then my mum burst into my room, in a frenzy just to tell me all the neighbours in our cul-de-sac were outside, clapping, waiting for me specifically to come out and receive the applause before they finally returned to their homes.

I could barely believe it. It was beyond words.

I must admit, I felt quite awkward at the time as I’m just a guy doing my job. But there’s no doubt I’m grateful every day for all the support we’re receiving from the great British public.

Of course, not everything is rose-tinted– especially in our world of emergency medicine.

We all used to work hard; that was a given. But right now, we’re working even harder in unprecedented circumstances. Although many of my patients leave with a smile and a skip in their step, others have become very unwell, very quickly, and died right in front of me. Although we try our best every time, the worst outcomes can always lie just around the corner. That’s the reality. 

So what gets me through each day, through a string of days revolving around 12 hour shifts?

 The Team. Yes, with a capital T.

I feel privileged to currently work alongside some of the most committed, talented and good-willed people I’ve ever met. This ranges from my closest junior medical colleagues such as my friend Tom , all the way to our senior leaders such as Darryl Wood who is spearheading research into Covid triage powered by artificial intelligence. As I said, we’re working hard, but we’re also trying to work smart; and learn very quickly through this process.

We are also lucky to have our clinical lead, Naas Postma represent the organisational agility of our department, alongside our Chief Medical Officer, Magda Smith, in the media. All this makes a difference on the frontline.

Beyond AI technology, my academic passion lies in the intersection of emotional intelligence and re-connecting with our humanity within healthcare. If this interests you, or you want to see daily uplifting insights inspired by our Emergency Department, then follow me on Twitter and/or Instagram.

 A closing thought: in Queen’s Hospital, just outside the room where clinicians ‘don’ PPE before entering the designated Covid area of our A&E, there’s a whiteboard. Its hand-drawn artwork reminds us in colourful words that our Emergency Department is not simply “the place” but, instead, “the people”.

 I could not agree more.”

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