Louise is a therapeutic radiographer who has worked at Bristol Haematology and Oncology Centre for over 27 years. She's also an avid fundraiser and volunteer for Above & Beyond. 

Here she talks us through the impact that coronavirus has had on the radiotherapy department and how staff have maintained safe and effective care for some of the most vulnerable cancer patients. 

"I enjoy the work that I do as a therapeutic radiographer and my duties are many and varied. For part of the week, I work within a team on a busy linear accelerator. The machine delivers radiotherapy treatment to patients who usually attend hospital daily for courses which can last up to seven weeks.

For the remainder of my week, I work as a review radiographer to support patients with guidance relating to the acute side effects they may experience from their treatment.

Coronavirus has changed everything

In a matter of weeks, our home and work lives changed significantly. But the department remained open and, of course, the welfare and safety of our patients and staff was the highest priority.

All aspects of treatment and care were reviewed. Some treatments were changed, supported by results from trials, and have been adopted nationally. Combined therapies with chemotherapy were also reviewed to ensure that patients with compromised immune systems, who are more vulnerable to the virus, were treated safely in adherence with strict guidelines.

A triage desk was quickly established at the main entrance of the Oncology Centre where patients are asked a standard COVID-19 questionnaire and have their temperature checked before entry.

To limit the number of people coming in and out of the hospital, patients were initially encouraged to check-in from their cars and were called into the department when we were ready for their treatment.

Staff and patients are adjusting to the new normal

Our patients would usually mark the end of their treatment by ringing the bell in the reception area. This still happens, albeit without family and friends smiling and clapping. Staff and other patients have been celebrating with them instead.

Masks are worn all day and only removed to hydrate and eat. We smile and hope it shows in our eyes. Gloves and plastic aprons are donned for each patient’s treatment.

In my review role, most of the previous face to face sessions are now conducted over the telephone. These can sometimes be a challenge as it can be hard to recognise signs of distress during a phone call.

Support from our communities during Clap for Carers each Thursday and the generous gifts donated by local businesses have helped staff adapt to our new reality. And we are so grateful.

Moving forward

Over the last three decades, I’ve seen many changes within our department. Several new machines have been installed to replace older versions. Each new one offers cutting-edge technology, which ensures our patients receive the best, safest and most up-to-date treatment for their cancers.

We have always been proud to provide the best treatment possible to our patients. And the same is true now.

Witnessing all the changes that have taken place in the last five months in the radiotherapy department, and in the wider hospital environment, it is now our job to reassure anyone who may be hesitant to come for appointments or treatment, that we are all working hard to ensure that your cancer treatment is as safe and effective as it can be. We're still here for you."

Thank you for standing with our NHS throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. By setting up a direct debit, you can ensure that staff - like Louise - can continue to deliver outstanding patient care in the future.