|29 Sep 2021
We asked several of our alumnae to reflect on their experiences over the past two years and were delighted to hear of the many contributions and achievements they've been making in their different fields. In this first instalment, Dr Hanneke Chudleigh ('99) reflects on front-line work as a General Practitioner and mum during the pandemic.
Sitting around the dinner table with my extended family in Fernie, British Columbia in late 2019 I was blissfully unaware of what the next two years would involve. Of the seven adults at that table, half of us now work fighting a pandemic that we could not have imagined existing. My brother provides rapid antigen testing for businesses in Sydney, my sister-in-law does PCR swabbing for a pathology company and I work as a General Practitioner in a vaccination hub.
Working in General Practice during the COVID-19 pandemic has been quite a rollercoaster. My initial experience involved working in my practice at Hornsby and hearing stories from students returning from overseas about COVID-19. At this time we lacked personal protective equipment that would protect us if we came across the virus. Masks were limited, and were only used if a patient was deemed likely to have COVID-19. As case numbers rose, more protection became available, but patient numbers dwindled. Patients stopped coming for their regular medical appointments because they feared this virus about which we still knew so little.
Being a mum and a doctor during a pandemic presented challenges. For months, General Practice was not considered to be frontline healthcare and we were unable to be vaccinated. Every day I was at work I worried that I would bring the virus back to my unprotected family.
Then the first round of homeschooling in Sydney started, and I had a daughter in Kindergarten. Providing learning support to a five year old who cannot yet read was a full time job, and with our patient numbers being low I decided I needed to take some time to focus on family. Of the challenges presented to me personally and professionally throughout the pandemic, homeschooling Kindergarten has definitely been the greatest test.
In early 2021, there was new hope with the development of several effective vaccines. With life returning to some routine, I decided I needed to be involved in helping us get through the pandemic. I wanted my children to be able to reflect in fifty years and know I used my skills and knowledge to help. I started working at the vaccination hubs at two major Sydney Hospitals. The roll out has not been without its issues. Keeping up to date with any developments or concerns worldwide has been onerous, but essential so that I can provide patients with all appropriate information at all times.
A Loreto education taught me the importance of service and contributing to society. Every day I am rewarded knowing that I am providing protection to an individual, a family and the wider population. As I look around at my colleagues, health and community leaders, I am proud to be serving alongside them in this pandemic and the truth of Mary Ward’s words could not be more evident in their actions, “women in time to come will do much.”
Dr Hanneke Chudleigh ('99)
BSc (Med) MBBS (Hons) FRACGP Dip Paeds
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