"Before the COVID-19 pandemic, my friends often joked during the (infrequent) times I was ‘on call’ for public health that if I actually did get paged, it must mean the end of the world as we knew it. Turns out they weren’t entirely wrong. 

Within the space of a few short weeks following news headlines in February, I moved from thinking ‘it’d have to get really bad before they’d need to draft me back in’ to ‘I can’t in good conscience not go back right now’. At that point I agreed with my PhD supervisors and my funder that I’d return to NHS service. 

The NHS Ayrshire and Arran COVID-19 Control Centre is the health protection control centre. We are responsible for the management and coordination of any local outbreaks. And giving advice to those involved in closed settings in the community. 

You have conversations with people who are really upset. Quite a lot of the time these residents are like family to the staff.

Irvine Times:

We’re asking if anybody else has passed away. That’s really hard to put down that phone, and absorb all of that. 

It’s something I remember from working in hospitals: you can’t take on board all of the tragedy of everything you see or else you’ll cease to function. 

I hope people realise that those who work in social care are just as integral. Often working for a lot less recognition, a lot less money, and a lot less status and I think they do an incredible job. 

I’m not sure what I was expecting, but the volume and pace of the work has been relentless. One of the difficult aspects of our role is that we’re the ones people come to for help interpreting the latest guidance on infection control, personal protective equipment (PPE), or access to testing, but we often have little or no warning of the almost daily changes. As you can imagine, that doesn’t always make for happy phone conversations.

Irvine Times:

I don’t want to get into a commentary on how the pandemic has been managed – that’s a whole other blog article, and others have already written it much better than I could. 

But I can at least say that too often, those of us working on the public health frontline have found ourselves having to rapidly act on policy changes where we simply didn’t have access to the evidence underlying them. 

In a specialty that prides itself on being evidence-based at all times, that’s a very uncomfortable place to be."

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