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A Day in the Life of ISID Emerging Leader Bethany Davies

This last year has really brought home to me how important it is to feel that your colleagues have your back. Working both on the clinical frontline delivering care to our COVID-19 patients at the acute hospital, as well as continuing to ensure that our undergraduate medical students continued to study as safely and as robustly as possible has been an extraordinary challenge. We have all stepped up – but most importantly, have continued to care for each other’s well being too. As we weren’t seeing each other in person for those passing, opportunistic moments of interaction, increasing our meetings to a regular slot has been a really key part of staying on top of the work that needs doing but also to check in to see how people are faring. One of my colleagues thought I looked so grumpy during a meeting, that she made a whole tray of brownies for me and dropped them to my front door the next day. What a lift! 

I also think that my aged dog should have an honorary title. She has contributed regularly, and loudly, by snoring through all my online sessions; to the point where I get asked where she is if all is quiet. She has very much appreciated the working from home aspects of COVID-19. The kids, not so – they, and I, are hugely grateful for “corona-school” for maintaining some semblance of sanity in the household. As a single mother of three, I am outnumbered, and primary school teaching is an artform that I do not hold within my skill set. Thanks to all the above, I have felt remarkably well supported in a very turbulent and unsettling time.

My clinical activity has been spread regularly over the year – we have cared for COVID-19 patients in the hospital since the start of the pandemic. Including adults of all ages, a variety of treatment escalation decisions and outcomes, and more bad news than ever – not part of my previous normal as an ID specialist. But, last week for the first time in a year, I had patients for whom COVID-19 had never been an issue. Delightful! My juniors laughed at my excitement to have a patient with a Campylobacter infection. (It all fitted beautifully – the exposure, the clinical presentation, the investigations and then finally, the enteric PCR…..!) 

The learning curve for getting to grips with online teaching has been almost as exponential as the numbers in the 2nd COVID-19 wave! It does have to be different – methods for engaging students that work well in the classroom often fall flat online. Typed chat, polls, peer work, and break out rooms all help – and sharing ideas among teachers. Some of the new teaching methods that we have developed have earned a lasting spot in the curriculum, even once we do get to go back to normal. It will be hard to justify hours spent commuting when a blended approach has proven to be so successful. Although first year lab practical definitely needs to go back to real flames, bugs, and stains. Spring is in the air. I’ve had patients without COVID-19. And finally, some time to stop and think. What lessons to keep from this year of practising and teaching in COVID-19, and what to drop like a lead balloon.

Dr. Bethany Davies is a Senior Lecturer and Consultant in Infection at Brighton and Sussex Medical School. She completed her dual training in Infectious Diseases and Microbiology in 2017 with a research doctorate, and postgraduate certificate in medical education, from Brighton and Sussex Medical school; undergraduate medical degree from University College London; MA (pathology) from the University of Cambridge and MSc Medical Microbiology from QMUL. Dr. Davies has a keen interest in medical education, especially of infection-related themes.

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