The Royal College of Physicians has recognised the contribution made by respiratory physiologists working in different ways during the COVID-19 pandemic to enhance delivery of care to patients.

Respiratory healthcare scientists and physiologists usually work in the outpatient setting. However, during the pandemic, this cohort of staff have been supporting patients and staff on wards assisting with pressure support ventilation in non-intensive therapy units.

Chief respiratory physiologist at the Princess of Wales Hospital, Lee Watts and his team have been using their skills in non-invasive ventilation to support COVID-19 patients admitted to Enfys ward (COVID-19 ward) during the first and the current second wave of the pandemic.

Lee said: “We provided treatments using continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) and high flow oxygen to support patient breathing, providing a bridge from medical wards to intensive care and vice versa. We also performed investigations which lay outside of our normal remit such as blood glucose monitoring and some of the more basic nursing tasks.

“It has been many years since I spent any meaningful time on the medical wards, as our normal service provision revolves around outpatients. Our experience this summer has given me a newfound respect for the slick skills of the ward staff.

“The recognition of our contribution during the pandemic as respiratory physiologists by the Royal College of Physicians is richly deserved and it has been rewarding to have our skills highlighted within the hospital to staff who previously may have not known who we are, or understand what we do.”

The team have recently moved into a new department with state-of-the-art equipment, which will help to treat the increase of patients expected in respiratory referrals post COVID-19 with underlying respiratory disease which will increase the demands on the day-to-day outpatient service.

Rebecca Griffiths, respiratory physiologist, said: “As respiratory physiologists we have a very niche area of expertise, dealing with a range of respiratory diseases.

“As COVID-19 is predominantly a respiratory illness, we were able to offer support to patient and staff on Enfys ward with setting up and monitoring of patients on non-invasive ventilation and CPAP.”

The team have greatly benefited from working with ward staff which has provided them with the opportunity to build better working relationships which will be beneficial as the pandemic continues, and beyond.

Eleri Jenkins, highly specialised respiratory physiologist, said: “We spent a week giving basic CPAP training to over 100 members of staff on the ward.

“Working on the ward with all the different healthcare professions was eye opening, as we rarely see the acute side of respiratory medicine. It just reaffirmed the role that we play amongst the team. I’m hoping our new department will help in developing the entire team, by allowing other healthcare staff to come and shadow us and vice versa.”

Having recently joined the team as a trainee clinical scientist, Corey Davies, said: “I was attracted here by the new state-of-the-art department, along with the fantastic opportunities to develop my skills further outside of the normal outpatient setting.

“The work already being done by the team is a real showcase for respiratory physiology and I am proud to be a part of it.”

Recognition of our healthcare scientists
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