Persevering: Best and Worst Year

Persevering Through A Pandemic – 4 – Best & Worst Year

The physical, mental and emotional burden of the COVID-19 pandemic on Intensive Care clinicians has been colossal. Many ICU staff, of all types and at all levels, have suffered significant psychological effects.

After hearing the pandemic experiences and perspectives of bedside clinicians in recent episodes, the focus of today’s episode is a clinical psychologist who’s been working inside several busy ICUs and supported hundreds of people across the United Kingdom during the pandemic.

In this fourth episode of the “Persevering Through A Pandemic” series, you’ll hear the thoughts of Dr Julie Highfield who has led a national UK-based wellbeing program in response to COVID-19. Dr Highfield works as a consultant clinical psychologist in several ICUs in Wales and has an additional role as the National Wellbeing Director for the Intensive Care Society in the UK.

In this episode Julie talks about:

  • The first year of the pandemic feeling like the best and worst year of her life
  • Her witnessing of ICU staff “just getting on with it” and “shelving their feelings”
  • The types of support she provided – in both her local ICUs and across the UK
  • Which support worked best for which staff
  • The value of one-on-one sessions – yet their impracticality in a pandemic
  • The types of group sessions she led
  • Two typical examples of who Julie has been supporting
  • What surprised her about the ICU teams
  • The rise in the number of UK ICUs with a clinical psychologist
  • The value of having a clinical psychologist embedded in an ICU
  • How Julie fared herself during the height of the pandemic
  • Her thoughts on the restrictions to visitors caused by COVID-19
  • The lingering effects of this pandemic
  • Advice for people who are considering championing wellbeing in their ICUs.

The culture around wellbeing in our ICUs is slowly changing and the effects of the COVID-19 may accelerate this. A good psychologist is vital to stimulating that change and to providing valuable assistance.

My hope is that this episode, as part of a focused series of episodes, will help Intensive Care clinicians to reflect on their own experiences and to learn valuable lessons about psychological aspects of the pandemic.

Thank you for listening to the wise and supportive Dr Julie Highfield, an ideal person to share perspectives on how ICU clinicians have been “Persevering Through A Pandemic”.

Andrew Davies


Links to featured guests

Persevering Through A Pandemic Series

Cite this article as: Andrew Davies, "Persevering: Best and Worst Year," In: LITFL - Life in the FastLane, Accessed on September 26, 2022, https://litfl.com/persevering-best-and-worst-year/.

Further reading and listening

Mastering Intensive Care

with Andrew Davies

Dr Andrew Davies MBBS FRACP FCIC. Intensivist/researcher at Frankston Hospital, Melbourne. Aiming to bring my best self to work & life. | Mastering Intensive Care | New Normal project |

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