Dr Aylin Baysan is Reader in Cariology at Queen Mary University of London’s Institute of Dentistry and has been volunteering in the Maternity wards at The Royal London Hospital to help during the COVID-19 pandemic. In this Q&A she talks about the challenges of juggling her teaching and volunteering commitments and why this has been such a unique experience.
How did the opportunity come about?
I have a weekly patient treatment session at Barts Health NHS Trust and an honorary contract with them at the Specialist level. So I volunteered to support the NHS and my colleagues to help provide patient care.
What were your first impressions when you started?
I had mixed feelings as a dentally qualified clinical academic working in the newly established Antenatal clinic at the Maternity ward, as this was out of my comfort zone. Day 1 was an extremely busy Monday with lots of lovely pregnant women. However, seeing and helping so many patients was rewarding. At the end of my first shift, I was very pleased and felt like I had accomplished something worthwhile.
What work have you been doing?
I have been seeing pregnant women for their 12-week reviews to check their general health i.e. blood pressure, folic acid supplements, nutrition and necessary vitamins, including well-being and antenatal screening tests. I have been obtaining the consents for these tests and discussing additional tests regarding risks, benefits and limits to check any potential foetal abnormality, for example, Down syndrome.
I have also been working non-stop remotely for Queen Mary, delivering Undergraduate and Postgraduate lectures. I managed to introduce online structured vivas for our final year dental undergraduate students. I think it is amazing that I have the opportunity to do my academic work and also to continue contributing to patient care in these challenging times.
What is the atmosphere like there?
The atmosphere is pretty calm due to the team being professional and respectful. Everybody’s morale is very high, and they are all dedicated, work hard and support each other.
The community support is excellent with lots of food and drinks donations for the ward staff.
What challenges have you faced?
This was the first time I have worked in the Maternity ward with lots of pregnant women, midwives and doctors. Of course, I was unfamiliar with the surroundings, procedures and paperwork. However, I observed a few patients during their consultations, and I managed to see the rest of the patients on my own.
In addition, The Royal London Hospital is usually extremely busy, but now it is much quieter. This was slightly odd to see in the first place as it took some time to get used to the floor plans and so on.
Keeping my belongings to a minimum when I go to work is strange, as there is that worry of bringing contamination home; house keys, staff ID, mobile phone, and my debit card are all I take to Whitechapel. I clean them constantly with our disinfection wipes at the Dental Hospital. My hands are also so dry from constant washing during the day.
What’s been the most positive thing about the experience?
The positive part was that I have worked and communicated with the team at the newly established Antenatal clinic effectively. We managed to contribute to our patients’ care and well-being.
The security staff, receptionists, nurses, midwives, phlebotomist and doctors are appreciative, kind and thankful and I genuinely enjoy my redeployment during these unprecedented times.
What other reflections have you had during your time volunteering?
I have started working with new teams in a totally different environment. As a result, in a very short amount of time I had some training in taking blood and cannulation and learned new skills beside my academic commitments.
One of my friends said “Now you have the opportunity to train in a Maternity ward, one day you might deliver your daughter’s baby”, so we never know!
As a summary, I feel that this is such a unique, rewarding and honourable time for me as a dentally qualified academic. I feel that I am contributing to our patient care and to our Trust. Therefore, I am grateful that I have the opportunity to play a small part in helping the NHS and society in these uncertain times.