Sean Carroll

Picture: Label1

Intensive care unit matron

Sean Carroll has worked at the Royal Free London for 20 years. In his current role as ICU matron, he touches every part of the day-to-day running of the Royal Free Hospital’s intensive care unit. His regular working day starts early – around 7am – and takes him from meetings with consultants and cross-department teams, up to the ICU’s where he can check on his staff and patients.

“As matron, my role is really dealing with the daily management of ICU,” says Sean. “And in many ways, that is still the same even during the COVID-19 pandemic. In reality, though, there have been fairly significant changes. The scale of work to be done is far bigger, as is the urgency. I get in a lot earlier now, and there’s usually something urgent already waiting in my inbox.”

While keeping on top of the constant flurry of urgent emails, phone calls and meetings can be a challenge, Sean still makes a point of spending time on the unit where he can. “You have to have your finger on the pulse – it would be too easy to miss something important. But it’s also important to visit the ICU’s, to see how staff are getting on and make sure I’m available for a chat if they need me.”

And, amongst all the challenges, Sean has also seen several things worthy of celebration. “There’s a lot to be proud about. The fact that we’ve been able to continue providing care for patients without COVID-19 who needed emergency treatment is particularly important - we need to be there for the residents of North London.

“I was also proud of the way that the Royal Free handled restrictions on visitors. We were able to find ways to allow patients to see family members when receiving end of life care. Making sure people could say goodbye to their relatives was something I was very passionate about.”

After 20 years, there’s not much that Sean hasn’t seen in the ICU, but getting involved in a BBC documentary was a new one. “You’re a little bit self-conscious at first,” he admits, “but you start to forget they’re there pretty quickly. It was a fantastic opportunity to show the world the real response to COVID-19, and the incredible effort of staff across the NHS.”