After redeployment to the maternity department during the COVID-19 pandemic, Sanjana Sudarshan explains what she will take back to working in dentistry.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, whilst completing my dental core training second year in paediatric dentistry, I had the privilege of re-deployment to the maternity department at the Royal London Hospital.
This was one of the most difficult yet memorable experiences of my training to date.
The immediate feeling of elation, at the possibility of spending our days working with happy mothers and new-born babies, soon returned to reality as we began our first week of induction into the department.
We were shown ante- and post-natal wards, triage centre, obstetric theatres, labour ward, and the birthing centre.
The team gave us a crash course reminder of our old maxillofacial skills such as cannulation, venepuncture and taking vital signs. All before introducing us to the existing staff.
Work consisted of a cycle of three, twelve-hour shifts in a row, followed by zero days.
The earlier starts and later finishes took its toll initially. But the thought of helping the NHS on the frontline during the pandemic made it more than worthwhile.
The play-zone, previously used for paediatric in-patients, became the staff wellbeing area.
The excellent and gracious airline staff who were volunteering to help key workers manned it. Their job was consistently stocking it with snacks, mindfulness activities and hot beverages.
Memorable experiences in the maternity department
Some of the more memorable experiences during my time in the maternity department include the tongue tie clinic and assisting in caesarean sections.
A few week-old newborn babies struggling to feed due to tongue ties would attend for assessment, treatment, and retraining of breast feeding.
The midwife in charge was extremely passionate, knowledgeable and skilled. Learning about tongue ties from a non-dental perspective was fantastic.
Scrubbing into theatres and assisting surgeons in emergency and elective caesarean sections was a remarkable opportunity.
Despite the confused faces during team brief when they noticed a dentist in theatre, I was welcomed warmly and involved throughout the operation, whilst acting within my competencies.
Observing the surgeons, theatre staff and midwives work together so seamlessly to ensure the safe delivery of babies impressed upon me the importance of a well-functioning multi-disciplinary team.
I was also present for a new-born cardiac arrest, immediately following an emergency caesarean section.
A crash call was made within moments of recognition. Everyone knew their roles and worked efficiently to revive the new-born healthily back into the mother’s arms.
The team averted a potentially devastating experience, and it was incredible to witness.
The quality of excellent work carried out by the medical profession under such stressful circumstances deserves infinite praise.
Bringing the experience back to dentistry
Overall, my re-deployment to the maternity department was one of the most positive things last year.
These experiences make me a better clinician and person. I cannot wait to bring some of my learning to the dental world.
Should the opportunity for redeployment arise again in the future, I would not hesitate in returning to the maternity department.
My only regret, however, was my failure to convince any of the expecting mothers to name their daughters after me.
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