Click above for photo
Most people could last about 90 minutes inside full PPE. You probably lose at least 1 litre of fluid an hour and there is no chance to take a drink as your mouth and eyes are the most vulnerable areas so you can’t remove your mask or put anything to your lips. It takes about 15 minutes to decontaminate so in total you can do this up to 3 times in a 6 hour shift. There are 2 of you plus a nurse or 2 and a cleaner for 18 patients.
Most of the work involves moving people either in or out of the unit. There can be anything up to 8 changes of patient per shift. When a bed becomes available we need to clean it and assemble a ‘welcome pack’ of rehydration fluids, a toothbrush and toothpaste. Admissions are usually straightforward but all need medications. Dead bodies need to be cleaned and moved to secure body bags which can be hard physical labour inside a suit. Transfers need to be taken to ambulances and discharged Ebola negative patients might need admission to the rest of the hospital.
Often this doesn’t leave much time for actually caring for the patients although it is important to speak to each of them, offer encouragement to eat and drink and in some cases to site lines and give intravenous fluids. There are a range of medication available for pain, agitation, nausea as well as anti-malarials and antibiotics. Thankfully paperwork is kept to a mimimum but it is important to keep records of everything you do. When all this is done you find yourself sitting in the 'clean' office in a pair of surgical scubs that you could wring out sweat from and looking forward to something cold to rehydrate with.