The reigning Miss England has at long last been able to join her colleagues at Boston’s Pilgrim Hospital in the fight against coronavirus.
Dr Bhasha Mukherjee, 24, from Lincolnshire, was stuck in India unable to get a flight home until earlier this month and had to self-isolate for two weeks upon her return.
Delighted to be back doing the job she loves, but not knowing what to expect on her first 13-hour shift day, her anxiety levels were high, and the nerves kicked in as she walked to the hospital.
What she’s since encountered has left her upset and angry as the lack of PPE for nurses on the front line is, she feels, a huge issue – and she told Femail her experience so far ‘wasn’t what she was expecting at all.’
Unable to ‘switch off’ after long and tiring days, she’s been writing down her thoughts and recording video diaries, shared exclusively with MailOnline.
Dr Bhasha Mukherjee, 24, from Lincolnshire, became Miss England on July 31 and competed in the Miss World Pageant. Pictured, on the day she was crowned
The doctor and beauty queen revealed her experience of being back at work during the coronavirus pandemic in a diary. Pictured with Dr Ajay Ravi
‘En-route to Boston. I had driven two hours from Derby to Boston in Lincolnshire, with all my belongings for the official house move.
‘I had already made a U-turn, remembering at the last minute that I’d left my ID card at home, and now that I was finally on the road, all the other things I’d forgotten flashed in my head like my medical handbook and hand lotion.
‘I made my first trip out to the supermarket in two weeks as I’d been self-isolating. I finally settled into my tiny rented room and was quite worn out.
‘I slept little as the “being late for work” scenario played on my mind – only to wake up a good 20 minutes before my alarm went off.
‘To my surprise, the one thing I was most anxious about, the abominable admin work, was resolved quickly and easily.
‘I had all my ID checks; online password settings sorted within the hour and had changed into a pair of scrubs and a surgical face mask ready for the ACU – acute coronary ward. I was not put on one of the Covid positive wards.
The reigning Miss England swapped evening gowns for scrubs and rejoined her colleagues at the Boston’s Pilgrim Hospital amid the coronavirus pandemic. Pictured, in scrubs before her Miss England days
‘I thought I would see doctors and nurses running around, bleeps and alarms sounding everywhere, but the ward was much the same as usual. If anything, it was even quieter.
‘The Q word is considered almost blasphemous in hospitals because as soon as you say it you kind of jinx it. I was the only doctor on that ward. It felt strange, a bit surreal. I had two jobs that morning and was able to grab a free lunch.
‘Admittedly, the coronavirus wards are reputed to be busier but to be on a medical ward which isn’t very busy, is weird.
‘This is just day one for me, and I have been warned that every day I may find myself in a new ward, so this seemingly stress-free day may be an exception to the rule. Time will tell…
‘I heard that the hospital’s medical areas are well staffed and COVID patients are doing relatively well. It isn’t always the case that patients in the hospital with coronavirus are excessively poorly.
‘The danger of their condition suddenly worsening is what calls for them to be in hospital. In essence, we are treating those only in real need of medical attention with the right amount of manpower and resources.
‘One of the doctors I had lunch with had just returned to work from self-isolation after testing positive. Her recount of symptoms was calming to the ears.
The beauty queen admitted she was shocked by the lack of PPE on COVID wards. Pictured, taking a selfie while on the ward with a colleague
‘Just a “mild flu like illness”, she said. It was reassuring to know that not every case of COVID-19 is too serious.
‘It’s 6.30pm now, I’m 9.5 hours into my shift with three more hours to go. What I can say is that being inside the hospital is the closest to normal I’ve felt in the last month.
‘I found an excuse to be off my phone and social media due to the snail-pace WiFi and it’s lovely to have actual people to talk with.
‘Moreover, it was surprising the ease with which I did the tasks I was given. Almost as if the information was stored and part of my muscle memory.
‘Today ran smoothly, my first shift was in the cardiac ward which is quite near to the Covid patients. Tomorrow may be different.
I’m in a meeting and wherever a doctor is unwell or unavailable, we are put wherever we are needed and that could mean the Covid ward.
Dr Bhasha said NHS staff were ‘falling like flies’ due to the lack of personal protective equipment. Pictured, on one of her shifts
‘People in general are avoiding hospitals, I think that’s a good thing, if you don’t need to be in hospital then don’t come. However, if it’s serious like a stroke or heart attack, people should get to hospital quick. We are still here to do the everyday surgical procedures.
One thing is for sure; the NHS staff have a remarkable sense of keep calm and carry on.
If anything, the unity has increased. It’s as if the people within our hospitals are more practical and rational about COVID and have taken it in their stride to do their duty come what may and cross the CORONA-bridge when they come to it. So will I, I guess.
‘Another two hours to go and I’ll be done for the day. I’m working on the respiratory ward. I wear a face mask and scrubs and that’s all, and that’s in case we’ve got Covid, and so that we don’t pass it on.
I’ve seen nurses with marks on their face from wearing the mask on the Covid ward. They have very little protection.
They have a simple surgical mask, a pinny and a pair of gloves. Unless a patient is on oxygen, they’re not even getting the N95 mask as protection.
It’s unfair, they’ve got families to go home to, it’s just so sad. The nurses have more contact with positive Covid patients, they’re changing the fluids and drip stands.
Doctors only go in there when a patient needs to be reviewed. Nurses are constantly in contact and unwittingly the virus can be spread to other parts of the hospital due to this appalling lack of PPE.
Some elderly positive Covid patients with dementia don’t fully understand what is happening and are removing their face masks and coughing – exposing staff to the virus.
I heard of a consultant with asthma who asked for the N95 mask and was refused. He’s now seriously ill with Covid. NHS staff are falling like flies.’
Dr Basha photographed a nurse (pictured), who wished to remain anonymous, to show that she was only wearing gloves and a masks and no other form of PPE
Whoever writes the policy, I’m not sure if it’s just for Pilgrim and I’m not sure who makes the rules, but I doubt it’s people who know what to do in this situation.
These rules are stupid set by people who don’t know what they’re talking about. They haven’t thought how to contain it!
‘I’ve met Covid staff who are working on the front line and I’ve got a better picture of the lack of PPE. Unless it’s ITU, doctors and nurses are not getting PPE.
Realising all this is going on has prompted me to bring this to the fore, the lack of PPE is a real issue.
I worked two days extra this week and the situation is grim. We wear normal scrubs and a face mask – even with suspected Covid patients.
Until they test positive, they’re isolated, but we carry on as normal, not wearing PPE. The NHS are treating us like we are immune, and we are getting on with it, but this is a massive issue.
We simply cannot be ill. I am doing the job I love but I am concerned about the pressure on the NHS.
When the virus kicked-off I was doing humanitarian work abroad and was expected to wear the Miss England crown every day and wear pretty gowns.
That’s all well and good, but I just wanted to get straight back home and into work. There’s no better time for me to be Miss England and help England at this time of need.
My hair is a mess, I’ve got spots from wearing the mask but that warm, fuzzy feeling of being there for your patients and conquering each shift with the help of fellow nurses and doctors, the absolute victory of putting in a difficult cannula and the thrill of solving problems is second to none. Nothing compares to this.
I will don the Miss England crown again one day, but for now, scrubs are the only gown I’ll be wearing.’