Bilstonesque verse from inside the Starship Enterprise
8 Mar 2021
Ever the trooper our stoic columnist, Russ Swan, reports on near patient testing and clinical care science from his intensive care hospital bed…
A sleep, A sleep My kingdom for a couple of hours of uninterrupted bloody sleep
I'm writing this from inside the intensive care unit at one of the UK's leading teaching hospitals, where I have been granted privileged access to the facilities and technology, as well as the nursing, medical, and surgical staff, on account of being a bit poorly.
It is proving to be quite an eye opener and, for a geek like me, an excellent opportunity for on-site research. I'm lucky enough to have landed in an almost brand-new facility with all the beeping beeps and flashing lights. When being wheeled in I thought I must have died and gone to the Starship Enterprise.
If, like me, you ever thought that a period of enforced idleness would offer a chance to reduce the stack of books in the to-be-read pile, I'm sorry to disabuse you. Mine has actually grown rather than shrunk. They don't call it intensive care for nothing.
The one book I have managed to consume is a novel by the poet Brian Bilston. He's an untypical poet who has a deft touch with words, and cleverly plays about with structure. Suitably inspired by this, I have attempted my own Bilstonesque verse (with apologies to both him and Richard III):
A sleep A sleep My kingdom for a couple of hours of uninterrupted bloody sleep
Early on, flat out and held down by a spaghetti of tubes and wires, I crack a gag about feeling like Gulliver washed up on the shores of Lilliput. This gets such a good response I repeat it with every shift change until I'm pretty sure everyone has heard it at least once.
In exchange for such priceless wit, I'm learning a bit about the current state of medical science and testing technologies.
It will surprise none of you that hospital labs are currently under significant pressure, what with that thing that's still going around. You will also be familiar with the growth of point-of-care technologies, which put the analysis at the bedside.
What I had not experienced before is the halfway house between these approaches. Sending samples to the labs is economical but slow. POC testing is immediate but expensive. The compromise here is NPT - near patient testing. Strategically placed along the corridors are blood gas analysers that provide practically immediate results, directly to the nurses taking the samples. It seems to work brilliantly.
This kind of thing is only practicable with the continuing development of technology by instrument manufacturers, as well as the skills of the current generation of all-graduate nurses. It will undoubtedly shape the ways laboratories and healthcare operate in the future.
Another novelty is the recent appearance of a new scientific discipline - the clinical care scientist. The extremely bright young graduate tells me that there are only a handful others in the country, working as much to establish their role as a sort of internal science consultant as actually doing the science. Once the position and its contributions are explained, I learn, acceptance grows quickly. And as medical science continues to grow, these people may soon become indispensable. Remember, you read it here first.
I can't leave without paying tribute to the amazing staff of the NHS. It has become rightly fashionable to praise the people at the front line but believe me when I say that a round of applause from the doorstep is nothing compared to what they deserve. Give them a proper pay rise and stop the disgraceful daily car parking charges they endure. This applies equally to the many Lab News readers in the NHS. We're on your side.
I write this in December and am flattered that my time here has resulted in my first valentine card of 2021. Yes, it has a picture of a robin on the front, and says Merry Christmas inside, but I'm counting it. Now, back to that TBR pile.