Channel 4’s 24 hours in A&E is one of its most popular series currently on screen, focussing on the Resus unit at St. George’s, one of London’s busiest hospitals. Patients who arrive here will be in a critical condition.
Paramedics or Hems doctors announce new patients by calling the red phone while they are en route to the department and in this series the dulcet County Antrim tones of senior staff nurse Julie Booth have already featured.
A former pupil of Ballytober, Julie has been nursing for five years. “I qualified from Queen’s in 2010,” said Julie. “At the time the nursing situation at home wasn’t the best. St. George’s did a recruitment day at the Queen’s jobs fair and there were about 16 of us came over to London.
“I worked on a medical ward for a couple of years and then moved to Intensive Care and I have been there for three years. St. George’s is a major trauma centre so we get many polytrauma patients, both children and adults. In February I had the opportunity to go on secondment to Resus where I worked for seven months.
“I really enjoyed working there. They have a brilliant team which was great to be part of. You see all sorts of things in the space of a day, so it’s good to be open minded. Although I was there on secondment I got offered the job to stay permanently. For now I’ve returned to my original job in ICU where I work as a Band 6 nurse and return to Resus to do extra shifts as I do miss it. In Resus my job was to coordinate and be in charge in Resus and it was during that time filming took place for 24 Hours in A&E.”
Series 10 episode 1 was screened last Tuesday and saw 28-year old Julie calmly deal with the dreaded red phone calls.
“Originally I was happy to be filmed but I didn’t want to wear a microphone but because I spent everyday in Resus and mostly in charge of it, I was the one answering the red phone and deciding who was going in to the different bays, so I ended up agreeing to wear the mic.
“This is the second series filmed at St. George’s and a lot of the guys knew what it was like and said you’ll get used to it in no time and they were right, within a couple of days putting a mic on becomes second nature, you forget about it because everyone is in the same boat and are busy doing their jobs.”
As a major trauma centre St. George’s goes from being relatively quiet to incredibly crowded and within a matter of minutes there could be numerous red phone calls. The area can be full of paramedics, Hems doctors, trauma doctors, police, relatives and patients and crucial decisions are made that can mean the difference between life and death.
“As the programme focuses on individual cases you don’t get the full reality of what goes on from day to day in Resus,” added Julie. “You could see absolutely anything in the course of the day, including some rather bizarre injuries. Due to the nature of the patients we admit there were many sad occasions were patients did not survive. Thankfully, the largest majority of patients make a full recovery.”
“I found it very different as I normally work in ICU and that’s a very controlled environment whereas A&E you literally deal with whatever comes through the doors there and then. Often patients from Majors became unstable and would have to be transferred into Resus, someone could have collapsed in the hospital, people would self present, so it wasn’t just the expected patients coming from the red phone, with a few minutes notice.
“You literally deal with anything and it’s very high pressure work. Coming from an ICU environment where you are busy caring for the most critically ill and often unstable patients, it’s a very different kind of pressure in A&E. The volume of patients is significantly larger and the turnover of patients is much more rapid.”
With her family back in Ballymoney glued to their screens as the programme aired, Julie was overwhelmed with people’s reaction to it. “I can’t believe the response from people at home to the programme,” she said. “It has been quite amazing and everyone has been very complimentary.
“I couldn’t bring myself to watch it and had put it on Sky+ but when I got so many messages I had to w atch it but it did feel quite strange watching myself on TV for the first time.”