Beurs van Berlage

The corona crisis in Amsterdam

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We spoke to Benedikt van Loo. He is a nurse anaesthetist and sedation practice specialist in the AMC and ambassador for the Beurs van Berlage. He talks about how he experiences the current situation, both at work and at home.

Blog How an Amsterdam healthcare worker experiences the corona crisis

The Netherlands is in the grip of the corona crisis. It has an impact on almost every aspect of daily life. We can no longer meet each other in person and social interaction is limited to online messages and meetings. The situation creates a lot of uncertainty and at the same time it shows just how much we are prepared to care for one another. This solidarity is reflected in statements of support. There is a lot of gratitude for everyone who has to continue working. Those who keep on doing the work that needs to be done and those who experience the consequences of the disease. Healthcare workers are struggling, and many people and organizations are trying to help. We spoke to Benedikt van Loo. He is a nurse anaesthetist and sedation practice specialist in the AMC and ambassador for the Beurs van Berlage. He talks about how he experiences the current situation, both at work and at home.

Benedikt van Loo: “As an anaesthesia assistant and sedation practice specialist, I normally work in operating rooms and other locations in the hospital where anaesthesia and sedation are administered. Anaesthesia, Intensive Care and Emergency Care all categorised as Critical Care Units. As a result of the corona crisis, a large number of COVID-19 patients were expected, and adjustments were needed. Changes had to be made on critical care units such as the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) and Emergency Care (SEH). The Emergency Room had to be prepared to make sure we could provide safe care to corona patients, both safe for patients and caregivers. Extra beds were needed at the ICU to accommodate the patients. Therefore, the normal operation program had to be scaled down.

These changes happened very quickly. All healthcare workers were aware of the need to realise the adjustments as soon as possible. There was great unanimity among health care providers to achieve this. That cooperation was the greatest strength to get this done quickly. I do not remember exactly when the crisis started in Brabant / the Netherlands, but I do remember that the Prime Minister gave the first major press conference about the coronavirus on Thursday March 12. The following Sunday I was on duty again and the necessary units were already equipped to receive COVID-19 patients. That the units could be prepared so quickly was also because the developments of the epidemic had been anticipated. I myself was not involved in the organization of the preparation, but I noticed that plans that had already been prepared in the months prior to the press conference were put into practice within two weeks.

An important part of these preparations was the retraining of staff members. Anaesthesiologists were, for example, trained to obtain specific knowledge about the care that is given to patients on the Intensive Care Units. We are therefore fully deployed at the ICU to assist colleagues. In addition to the regular Intensive Care Unit there are also Mobile Intensive Care Units. I am working on those units myself. Together with an anaesthetist, I pick up (Corona) patients in hospitals in Brabant and together we transfer them to hospitals with more IC capacity. At the ICU we take care of the patient together with our ICU colleagues. The advantage of this is that it allows you to get to know and appreciate each other's specific work fields better. Anaesthesia learns a lot from the ICU and vice versa. We complement each other.

Since I do not work in the regular wards, I have no experience with long-term care for patients, but I do know that nurses in the ward do everything they can to provide the best possible care and to ease the feelings of loneliness that many patients have. However, this is a task that should not be underestimated. The ordinary care for these people is already complicated and difficult. What is typical of COVID-19 cases is that in half an hour, the condition of someone with respiratory distress can worsen to someone who can die any minute if they are not put on a ventilator. It is horrifying to see that happening before your eyes. In addition, due to the shortage of personnel, the caregivers are under a lot of workload and experience high time pressure. It is therefore difficult to give all patients the attention you want to give them. To be honest, that's impossible, and that's something that really upsets many nurses.

As colleagues, we support each other in dealing with difficult situations when necessary. In addition, there is also a project called “Care 4 our own". This is a group of colleagues who are trained to help colleagues who have had a traumatic experience in the workplace. I have very recently experienced how valuable such support can be. I came home from a difficult evening shift and received a text from one of those colleagues. They had heard what had happened and inquired whether I was doing well. Gestures like that are much appreciated.

Of course, we also read many statements of support. In the AMC location there is a glass connecting corridor between the parking garage and the hospital. It is full of cards, letters and drawings. That is heart-warming and is highly appreciated by us. I recently left the hospital after my shift, and someone stood there giving us a bouquet of flowers for our hard work, and a shop manager was handing out boxes of fruit to us. Those are beautiful and sweet gestures. I sincerely hope that this appreciation will remain after this crisis and that we will not continue to see videos of ambulance nurses or other healthcare personnel who are attacked while trying to help someone as soon as possible. Because in the end we are currently not doing anything different than usual; our job.

My wife has exactly the same profession as me. In that respect I am a privileged person because we only need a few words to understand each other (that is professionally, other subjects are often a bit trickier ;-)). We know that pressure is always present in our profession and notice it immediately if one of us has experienced a difficult situation. Our 12-year-old daughter is now taking school lessons via the internet, which I think is going wonderfully well. What I especially miss is meeting my friends in person. On these beautiful spring days we would normally enjoy each other's company and drink a glass of wine together. I really hope that such encounters will soon be possible again."

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