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BCA News: Fall 2020

Medical Photographers Working From Home
John Yeats, AAIMBI

The Covid-19 pandemic has wreaked havoc on the world in nearly every country. Apart from the obvious health dangers and tragic outcomes, there have been many changes that have impacted on just about all of us inhabiting this planet.

I've been asked to write a few lines on how the pandemic has impacted my work as a medical photographer here on the eastern coast of Australia.

I work in a large paediatric teaching hospital in Sydney. When the pandemic was at the 'first wave' peak in Sydney my colleague and I were directed to work from home. Although a large part of our work is to photograph patients we were deemed 'non essential' health care workers. Patient visits to hospital dropped dramatically and most of the regular clinics temporarily ceased. My colleague and I were initially able to take home some non-clinical work projects to keep us occupied.

A recurring 'joke' became over-used when telling others that we are medical photographers working from home; 'the department must have a very long lens'.

We both saw this situation as an opportunity to clear our backlog of patient processing work and a submission was made to the head of clinical services as well as our managers to take some of that work home. Pleasingly, the response was one of gratitude for offering to work on patient files. And after discussing the measures of security we have in place for both transport from the workplace to home new protocols were set into action enabling a work from home situation.

That period has passed, and we have  both been back on site with our normal hours. However, as Sydney is on the brink of a possible second wave of Covid-19 infections, we have been just asked to ensure that only one of us is in the department for each day, to guard against the possibility of a 'contamination' causing the isolation of both staff for a significant period.

Working from home has meant adapting and slightly changing workflow and practices but in the main one could say that the department has benefitted as it has provided the opportunity to get through quite a deal of unprocessed jobs. It has been a product of effective communication with our superiors as well as developing new protocols for a period.

Our hospital has been fortunate to date as there has been no encounter with the virus. There are stringent protocols, including the screening of patients and carers as well as staff. Parents, carers and children over 12 as well as staff are encouraged to wear masks while in the hospital.

I must finish with an incident that occurred 2 weeks back on site during a busy patient clinic period. I saw a child and her mother standing in front of a small plastic toy camera that we have next to our front door to denote that our department is about photography. They were there for some time before entering the waiting room with the mother a little red faced. She owned up that her first thought was that the camera was an automatic device that could record her child's image. I smiled politely and thought that her actions were a result of the bewildering atmosphere that the hospital environment can induce in someone's thinking.

John Yeats, AAIMBI

Later I thought (for a second only) that an automated system that the parent had presupposed, might be an answer if this virus persists for much longer. Fortunately, I think we are a long way off that scenario and medical photography still has a place and photographers may still have a job for a while yet.

I do wish all in BCA well in these uncertain times and that those especially who are working in hospitals will stay employed and of course safe.

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