Our Knackpacker community is made up of diverse professionals, and today we’re excited to share an interview with Dr. Nicholas Ward. Dr. Ward is Associate Director of the Medical Intensive Care Unit at Rhode Island Hospital and an assistant professor of medicine at The Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University. He leads a busy professional life, working in the ICU, general practice and as an educator.
In this interview, Dr. Ward shares how he was part of the response to COVID-19 in Rhode Island, and also shares insight into the day-in-the-life as a critical care physician.
A Day In the Life of a Critical Care Physician
“No day is the same for me,” shares Dr. Ward. “My professional life is split into two parts, where I alternate between working in the ICU and meeting with non-emergency patients. I spend one full week on the ICU and one week off.”
Leading The ICU
During the weeks he’s at the ICU, Dr. Ward heads into the hospital by 7AM. “I typically answer emails, then I change into scrubs. I then do rounds with up to 18 patients. Because it’s a teaching hospital, I also work closely throughout the day with residents, interns, and medical students.”
When Dr. Ward is working at the ICU, he is on call for 24 hours a day. “I don’t live at the hospital for a week,” he says with a laugh, “but sometimes it can feel that way! I’m on call the entire week, and I can be called throughout the night or go back into the ICU if I’m needed. We do this so there’s continuity of care, and one person who keeps track of what’s going on. If everyone left at 5, it would be difficult, if not impossible, for us to ensure high quality and continuous care.”
Teaching & Non-Emergency Patients
“In the weeks that I’m not in the ICU, I’m teaching and working with my fellows, as well as having appointments with non-emergency patients.”
Responding to COVID-19
“I’m a Pulmonary/Critical Care physician, which means I focus on the respiratory system,” shares Dr. Ward. “COVID infects the lungs and does terrible things there. The sickest end up in the ICU with different problems, and pulmonologists are the doctors who take care of them.”
Dr. Ward was extremely busy in April and May, as Rhode Island was a hotspot for COVID-19. “Boston lit up back then,” shares Dr. Ward. “We’re about 50 miles from Boston, which was hit hard. Not as bad as New York, but the ICU at our hospital had to expand to become four ICUs.”
When asked how he made it through this challenging period, Dr. Ward said, “It was a difficult time, and we’re still recovering from it. As medical professionals, we’re used to long days and nights. Planning and communication were critical to this period. We’re still seeing patients with COVID-19, and it’s not over yet.”
Going Virtual Due to COVID-19
In the midst of caring for patients, Dr. Ward has also had to adapt the logistics aspect of his work. “We’ve all had to adapt and change the way of doing things, thanks to COVID-19,” shares Dr. Ward. “While a lot of these changes are well-known, like telehealth appointments, another one of the challenges I’ve had to deal with is going 100% virtual for the Critical Care Fellowship I run.”
Dr. Ward is the Program Director of the Pulmonary/Critical Care Fellowship through Brown University, and the program receives approximately 300-400 applications a year.
“Typically, we narrow down the applications to approximately 50 candidates. Normally, they would come for in-person interviews, tour the hospital, and connect with current fellows. Now, thanks to COVID-19, this all has to be done remotely. It’s definitely been a challenge, and I’m proud of how the team has risen to the occasion.”
Being a “Gear Nerd” & Using His Knack Pack
“I’m a bit of a 'Gear Nerd,’” shares Dr. Ward. “I love well-engineered products, and I’m shocked at how much stuff the Knack Pack can hold. Before I found my Knack Pack, I was looking for a bag that I could use a briefcase, as well as travel with – fitting it under the airplane seat in front of me.” Dr. Ward is a busy traveler, and he doesn’t want to check his bags when traveling!
“I found out about the Knack Pack because I know Chad Mellen [the Founder of Knack]. When I found out about his new company, I made sure to share my bag feedback with him! He showed me the prototype backpack, and we had a great time talking about bag design and the need for a bag that can adapt to different environments.”
How Dr. Ward Packs His Knack Pack
“If I’m taking it to work, then the main compartment holds files and other materials. It’s nice, because I can also pack my scrubs and shoes in the travel compartment. Having a change of clothes is essential.”
Dr. Ward loves to use the top pocket for reading glasses, saying, “I wear a lot of glasses. I need reading glasses these days and I lose them a lot. I use low magnification glasses when I work at a computer. When I’m not at a computer, I need high magnification glasses. This means I carry at least 3 pairs of glasses, so I keep those in the top pocket. I also have a pair of sunglasses readers, and I keep them there, too.”
Overall, Dr. Ward appreciates how his Knack Pack makes it easy to stay organized. “If you’re in a hurry, you can quickly grab your power cord or headphones from their dedicated pockets. You don’t have to rummage through your bag to find them!”
Adds Dr. Ward, “I really like that it can be used in a variety of situations. I can use it as a work bag, while traveling, while teaching, etc. It never looks out of place.”
Thank you, Doctor Ward!
We appreciate Dr. Ward taking the time to share insights into his work, as well as how he uses his Knack Pack backpack. If you’d like to get more stories from Knackpackers in your inbox, be sure to subscribe to our email list!