Bulletin 129, September 2021

From the Editor, Dr Helgi Johannsson

Hello, and welcome to the September issue of the Bulletin.

I write this on the train down to Cornwall where we will be spending a few days, along with most of Middle England by the look of things. If I’d told myself a year ago we would still be severely affected by the COVID pandemic I wouldn’t have believed it, but here we are, case transmission high, and hospital numbers increasing, although still mercifully low. Many of my healthcare worker friends are still struggling with their physical and psychological health both after their own COVID infection, and from looking after so many critically ill patients, and witnessing so many deaths. Therefore I make no apology for including a lot of wellbeing articles in this issue, and want to highlight the work of the Samaritans (page 14) and other organisations, especially after experiencing a similar bereavement myself in June. 

Our psychological health is as important as our physical health, but is just as easy to neglect and ignore mild symptoms, carrying on regardless. This is especially true during the COVID surges. The article on the psychological first aid course, and the examples where material learned has actively helped colleagues, gives a framework for identifying and addressing these issues. My colleague Dr Gandhi’s article on attitudes to ICU training (page 36) is both reassuring and troubling. I found my four month redeployment to our intensive care unit generally an immensely positive experience, and want to thank my intensive care colleagues for making it so. Intensive care is likely to need significant staffing investment in the future, however, and the negative experience of 30 per cent of the respondents is worrying. 

I thoroughly enjoyed reading the article on Sonia’s kitchen (page 38). Having discovered the joys of sourdough bread making during lockdown, I agree with the comparisons between anaesthesia and cooking. I have to admit though, my sourdough starter is currently in the freezer, much to my husband’s delight, as my cleaning up rituals were never quite as good as my preparation. My own hospital also organised many team building events that were a great comfort, especially at a time when our working and home lives were very unusual and often difficult (although most of them seemed to clash with my ICU on calls). 

As we come into autumn I am looking forward to some resumption of normal activity, and especially our Diplomate’s Day ceremony in September, where we celebrate FRCA exam successes. I want to take this opportunity to acknowledge quite how difficult it has been for the candidates over the last two years, with cancelled exam sittings, uncertainty over training, difficulty revising due to cancelled study leave, and intensive surge rotas, as well as uncertainty over employment and recruitment. I also want to acknowledge the hard work of the exams department – and examiners themselves – who pulled out all the stops to get as many candidates through a new online exam as possible, and catch up with the backlog. 

I’m very much looking forward to meeting many of you face to face in September – just as this edition comes out. Please do say hello.