What? I consider myself privileged to divide my work time between my roles as a clinical simulation educator and as an intensive care nurse in a large teaching hospital. I find that working alternate weeks in educational and clinical roles can be challenging because both demand complementary but different skills. However, I am thrilled to have the opportunity to continue caring for patients alongside supporting and learning with colleagues. Balancing these roles during a pandemic presented me with new challenges and rewards, and reflection on these experiences has given me some fascinating insights. As the COVID-19 pandemic progressed and the number of patients requiring admission to the Critical Care Unit increased, the units were expanded and staff were redeployed from other areas to provide support. These ‘surge’ staff required rapidly developed simulation-based training to allow them to work in this unfamiliar environment within a restricted scope of practice. Being involved with delivering this training as well as working with surge staff in Critical Care afforded me a deeper understanding of the surge role and the unique challenges it presented. Once surge training was completed and I returned to delivering our standard simulation-based education courses, my experiences of working clinically continued to enrich my teaching because I felt somewhat familiar with some of the challenges our learners were facing as the pandemic continued.
So what? Over the last year, I have felt conflicted at times; when working clinically during the peak of the pandemic, there was very little time to facilitate learning at the bedside, and during my educator weeks I relished the opportunity to support and teach but felt guilty for spending time away from colleagues and patients in Critical Care Unit. However, continuing with both roles better equipped me to answer questions and to provide support during surge training, particularly for those staff who had not yet spent time on the units. When assisting with other courses as a faculty member, I was able to deeply empathize with participants who encountered situations that I had become familiar with in practice – for example, communicating with others when wearing full personal protective equipment – which helped me to validate and normalize some of the experiences shared during debrief discussions. Through continuing to reflect on my time spent working in these environments during the pandemic so far, I hope to present my learning and recommendations for optimizing practice under challenging circumstances.