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A day in the life of Mithal Riachi, Clinician Team Lead, Dubai: April 2020

Before the COVID-19 outbreak, I’d get up at 5am so that I could go to the gym or on a run before getting to the office at 8am. Now that we are all working from home, however, I’m taking the opportunity to spend a little bit longer in bed before I start the day!

Day-to-day impact

I live with my husband and three children, and my mum is currently staying with us too. She came for a visit from Lebanon, and then got stuck when the airports closed. I’m very happy she’s here as she helps a lot with meals for the family and is good at spoiling me, so it’s a real positive from the current situation.

Works starts at 8am, and I’ve set up a mini desk on our dining room table, having bought an office chair and screen to maintain good posture and a comfortable working environment. My children have been e-learning since the schools shut and my husband is working from home too, so it’s a squeeze but we manage pretty well.

Virtual teams

As the CARE Management Team Lead, I have eight people who work for me in two shifts – four from 8am to 5pm, and four from 11am to 8pm – and we look into preauthorisation requests as well as claims. We’re used to all being together in an office, asking each other questions as they arise and chatting through the best solutions. To combat this, we now have three ‘team huddles’ a day to organise who is doing what, to prioritise and to plan as effectively as possible.

Recognition for the front line

I’ve been a nurse for more than 18 years, having completed my training in Lebanon where I was an ICU nurse. After moving to Dubai, I worked in a Polyclinic (a health care facility that provides both general and specialist treatments) in different departments, including ENT, gynae and gastro, and eventually managed a team of 30 nurses. Of course, part of me would like to be out there now, physically helping, but I’m delighted that front line medical staff are starting to get the recognition they deserve. They always do the hard work and put their own lives at high risk, so it makes me happy that people are starting to appreciate that.

Maintaining healthy habits

Lunch is usually about 1pm, and I try to take an hour so that I can relax and be full of energy in the second half of the day. Today, however, I only managed 10 minutes between calls to grab some food. I’m a healthy person so lunch will typically be something Lebanese like kebbeh (beef croquettes) and tabbouleh (bulgur wheat with herbs).

The first few days of working from home were quite stressful, to be honest. It certainly required a mindset shift at the beginning, especially for those of us who have family around and were concerned about making calls with a child potentially crying behind them. But things have settled very quickly and we’ve fallen into a new routine. Our management has been very understanding and openminded about how we work, and that has been cascaded down so we all feel less stress and more accepting that we can work around any challenges. From my own point of view, it helps that my children are enjoying e-learning as their day is shorter and more relaxed, and I feel very lucky to work for a company that has given us so much support at this difficult time.

Member first

Since COVID-19, the number of preauthorisation requests we have been receiving have gone down in the UAE and streamlined to urgent only. Guidance from the Ministry of Health has meant all elective cases have been postponed so, for example, varicose veins surgeries can wait whereas cancer treatment or a broken bone still needs to be dealt with. Our members have always been the centre of our attention, so we’ve taken the opportunity to personally call all those with suspected or diagnosed COVID-19 and those who are at high risk due to serious underlying medical conditions, to let them know we are here for them and to explain how we can help. We want to ensure people are aware of useful services such as vHealth and our Employee Assistance Programme. The feedback has been phenomenal – members have really appreciated hearing from us, and it feels wonderful to offer some reassurance when so much is currently unknown.

Family time

Work finishes after 5pm, and then it’s all about the children and family time. Once homework is completed, we eat outside in our garden as a family and enjoy the lovely weather here. Then I try to fit in some exercise, maybe yoga or a full body workout, but indoor only, following the total lockdown a couple of days ago.

Bedtime is about 11pm, and I generally have no trouble dropping off. I just say my prayers, stay positive and have a really good night’s sleep.

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