Medical Physics and Bioinformatics Trainee Clinical Scientist Volunteers in ICU

Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust’s Radiation Physics Department, hosts the London North Training Consortium, a collaboration of seven major London NHS Trusts, and employs twenty-five Trainee Clinical Scientists, following Health Education England’s 3 year post-graduate Scientist Training Programme (STP).

A number of trainees stepped up during the first wave of the of the COVID-19 pandemic to assist the highly-skilled team of Critical Care Technicians, led by Paul Clements.

During the second wave of the COVID-19 crisis, a number of the same and additional trainees volunteered for redeployment to the ICU units across Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust. The trainees were led and trained by the incredible technologists working there, who in return received help from a group of eager trainee physicists (and a bioinformatician). The trainees learnt a range of new skills, including how to test, service and set up equipment, such as ventilators and blood-gas analysers, ready for use on the wards. To give you a flavour of the experiences of the redeployed trainees, here are a few lines from each of them:

Name: Fred Varley

Specialism: Medical Physics (Imaging with Ionising Radiation)

Year: 2nd

Hospital: Charing Cross

One thing you’ve learnt: Every machine has different alarm to get your attention, and I know far too many of them by heart now.

Most memorable moment: Going through air-tight mask-fit testing and having a bitter mist sprayed in my face to see if it works… But going into wards in full PPE afterwards it was incredible to see how calmly and quickly the ITU staff were able to work in such an uncomfortable and stressful environment.

Figure 1: Fred Varley

Name: Meagan de la Bastide

Specialism: Medical Physics (Radiotherapy)

Year: 3rd

Hospital: Charing Cross

One thing you’ve learnt: How to test and prep a ventilator, and also not to take your health for granted!

Most memorable moment: Helping to re-calibrate a blood-gas analyser on a very busy COVID positive ward. We had to maintain a sense of calm in the midst of a very stressful environment in order to get the job done.

Figure 2: Meagan De La Bastide

Name: Molly Buckley

Specialism: Medical Physics

Year: 1st

Hospital: Charing Cross

One thing you’ve learnt: I learnt how a CO2 flow sensor works.

Most memorable moment: My most memorable moment was seeing the view from 11th floor for the first time.

Figure 3: Molly Buckley

Name: Oscar Lally

Specialism: Medical Physics (Imaging with Non-Ionising Radiation)

Year: 2nd

Hospital: Nightingale and Hammersmith

One thing you’ve learnt: I learned how important science and technology is in ICU and how frequently it is relied upon.

Most memorable moment: My most memorable moment was having a sign language conversation with a patient who had just come out of a coma that had lasted months over Christmas.

Figure 4: Oscar Lally

Name: Aggie Peplinski

Specialism: Medical Physics (Imaging with Non Ionising Radiation)

Year: 3rd

Hospital: Charing Cross

One thing you’ve learnt: I learnt lots about how all the equipment works that keeps people alive in intensive care.

Most memorable moment: Meeting and working with a whole new lovely team.

Figure 5: Aggie Peplinski

Name: Faissal Bakkali Taheri

Specialism: Medical Physics

Year: 1st

Hospital: Charing Cross Hospital

One thing you’ve learnt: COVID redeployment has affected staff at all levels: medical physicists who become assistant technologists, junior doctors who become healthcare assistant, and nurses who worked at almost all levels of nursing. Patience and flexibility really were keys in allowing the whole of ICU to work as efficiently as humanly possible.

Most memorable moment: Just being there helping the team, made the time at the ICU memorable. Even though the work we did wasn’t that difficult, it alleviated the burden of senior members of staff, who were then able to dedicate precious time to more challenging situations.

Figure 6: Faissal Bakkali Taheri

Name: Isadora Platoni

Specialism: Bioinformatics (Physical Sciences)

Year: 2nd

Hospital: Charing Cross Hospital

One thing you’ve learnt: How to translate between nurse-speak, doctor-speak and tech-speak. All surprisingly different. Most memorable moment: It’s difficult to choose just one moment, as every day was so different. However, my most memorable moment would probably be trying to fix the ventilator of a patient who’d recently had a tracheostomy, despite everything (including the piercing noise of the ventilator alarming) he was smiling and waving at anyone who came to help.

Figure 7: Isadora Platoni

Name: Alice Carlin

Specialism: Medical Physics (Radiotherapy)

Year: 2nd

Hospital: St Mary’s

One thing you’ve learnt: I have learnt about the extensive equipment required to monitor and support patients who are critically ill and the importance of multidisciplinary work in ensuring that patients receive best care.

Most memorable moment: Probably the first time I walked into an ICU ward as the environment is completely different to my usual department.

Figure 8: Alice Carlin

We’d like to extend our thanks to Paul Clements, Arthur Plewa and the whole Critical Care Technology team for the opportunity!

Produced by:

Isadora Platoni
Trainee Clinical Scientist 

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