Journaling my experience as a COVID ICU assistant 1

Journaling my experience as a COVID ICU assistant.

By Michael Holm, Nordic Partner

Journaling my experience as a COVID ICU assistant 2

Michael Holm, one of our Nordic Partners, answered a desperate plea on facebook from a Stockholm hospital in March this year. The M&A acquisition integration pipeline had dried up in the Nordics, a good project manager/organizer could perhaps help in the crisis. What was really needed was hands-on resources in Covid-ICU. Michael was fast tracked trained to be a ICU assistant and worked for some 5 weeks at the hospital during the peak of Swedish spring outbreak. During his time as an assistant he wrote a diary about his experiences in the hospital that was the basis for an article in a leading Swedish daily paper.

Below is a little peak into his experience through a few interview questions.  We are proud and thankful to Michael and his family for his involvement in helping during the initial COVID crisis and for sharing his experience with us:

How did you decide to volunteer and why?

It felt like the right thing to do instead of idling about and thought that I could help out.

How did your family react to your choosing to volunteer to be an ICU assistant?

We talked about it and decided together. My wife and kids were positive and very supportive saying “Of course, you should do it.” 

Were you concerned for your family’s health during your time working in the ICU?

Journaling my experience as a COVID ICU assistant 3 In March little was known about Covid 19, horrible stories from Italy and France was on social media, so yes I was worried. I was as careful as I could at the hospital following the hygiene protocols and I showered twice after each day, once in the hospital and once at home. The briefing that the hospital gave us on measures to keep the staff safe from the virus gave me comfort.


Pictured: Air helmets and air filter/battery packs. (normally used by medical company Astra but provided to hospital). Air constantly blows down over your face so you only breathe in air has been filtered.


Was there such a thing as a typical day for you?  If so, what was it like?

Journaling my experience as a COVID ICU assistant 4

Pictured: Inside the lock.  Line on the floor is between dirty and clean.


For a day shift: I got up at 05:20. We had a shift briefing at 07:00, going through the lock/sluice into Covid-ICU at 07:15 for a bedside handover from the shift staff.  I start monitoring the ventilator and ICU displays, clearing patient’s lungs from fluids when needed, tending to patients hygiene needs, shifting the position of the patient every 3-4 hours in bed to activate different parts of the lungs, helping other patient teams in shifting their patient’s position, help nurses with their tasks.  Lunch and toilet breaks outside the lock for 30-45 minutes, then my shift ends at around 15:00 and Im home again by 17:00. The patient team was an ICU nurse, a general nurse, and me as an ICU assistant.

The objective was to improve the breathing of the patient so we watched the oxygen saturation all the time,  e g if we put the patient on their right side – did it improve the patients breathing? I felt frustration when the patients saturation was lower at the end of the shift than in the beginning despite all the efforts from doctor and nurses.


Could you describe a memorable experience during your 5 weeks?

Journaling my experience as a COVID ICU assistant 5 When one of the patients came off of the ventilator I mentioned to him that I was one of the team members that had cared for him over a number of shifts, and he croaked a “thousand”, I filled in “thanks” and he nodded. (It is difficult to talk when coming off a ventilator)


Pictured: Patient status represented by colored butterflies from the hospital admin office.  Names of the some 300 who worked in Covid ICU and in the supply org are listed to the right of the butterflies..

Pink – Patient in ICU currently
Blue – Deceased
Yellow- Survived ICU still in hospital care
Green – Sent home after surviving ICU
Grey – Transferred to another hospital with spare capacity (load balancing)


Why did you journal your experience?

My wife and a friend suggested it to me as a way to deal with the experience and for my family to understand.


Has this experience changed you and if so, in what way?

Journaling my experience as a COVID ICU assistant 6

Pictured: a triage tent outside the hospital at the trauma entrance



I certainly have understood the ICU resources put in to save a patient in a critical condition which gives comfort. I learned about and experienced great crisis communication and debriefs to support the ICU staff in a dynamic crisis situation when resources and material was scarce.  Science discovered new things about the virus and a lot of stories in the media & social channels. Also the importance of a well structured and “can do” supply organization outside the ICU ward for timely delivery of medicine, supplies, and material, and also doing sterilization and cleaning. The community around the hospital also contributing to what was going on by donating lunches and different kinds of energy boosters (pizza, salads, energy bars, etc). Finally, the management being present and describing the steps to keep the staff safe from being infected and answering all kinds of questions and concerns.


Michael Holm is a Partner at Global PMI Partners, an M&A integration consulting firm that helps mid-market companies around the world by delivering exceptional consistency, speed, and customized execution on the complex operational, technical and cultural issues that are so critical to M&A success.

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