On International Nurses Day, three nurses describe their role in Covid-19 fight

“It’s like we are at a war zone because every patient that comes to us, despite not showing symptoms, are tested positive. We never know if we too may carry the disease when we report to duty one day.”

As the country grapples with the third leg of the lockdown during the coronavirus pandemic, nurses have led from the frontline, bravely beating all odds to serve those in need. 

Every year, May 12 is celebrated as International Nurses Day to commemorate the birth of Florence Nightingale, British social reformer and founder of modern nursing, and express gratitude towards nurses. This year’s theme is “A Voice to Lead – Nursing the World to Health” which throws light upon how nurses are critical in delivering healthcare. 

Dr P Venkata Krishna, who works with a private hospital in Gurugram, says: “On the occasion of International Nurses Day, I can’t thank them enough for playing a vital role in taking care of patients, their environment, medication and well-being every minute. A doctor’s role is to decide the treatment of the patient, but to ensure that it’s done is a role played by the staff nurse.”

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On the occasion, indianexpress.com spoke to three nurses who do not believe in buckling under these extraordinary circumstances as they fight the war against the pandemic.

‘I did not expect to test positive, had no symptoms,’ says doctor and COVID-19 survivor

Amrita Chaudhary (25), staff nurse

Amrita Chaudhary, who has been a nurse for three years with a private hospital in Vasant Kunj, Delhi says: “Despite the fatigue, I am proud to be working in order to overcome the pandemic.”

Following the call of duty isn’t easy when one’s routine takes a 360-degree turn and six-hour shifts turn into 12 hours, from 8 am to 8 pm. The PPEs pose their own challenge, she explains, “It is very difficult to work continuously for six hours wearing the PPE; you cannot drink water, go to the washroom or leave the ward no matter what.”

Wearing a PPE is a fairly complicated task and takes about 20 minutes. The outfit includes a shoe cover, a pair of gloves along with a full-body coverall resembling a Hazmat suit, plus another pair of gloves, protective glasses and a cap. “After the first round of six hours, we get a break of 30 minutes to take a shower, rest, talk to family and eat our food,” the nurse tells us.

Lockdown and long distance: Keeping the faith

The weariness is palpable as she shares, “When I look at myself in the mirror, I can see scars on my eyes from the goggles I wear and my uniform is filled with sweat. But if I don’t do this now, I might not have another chance to serve my country.”

Amrita had plans of going back home to her parents in Himachal Pradesh but with the lockdown in place, she has to wait till the situation eases. “My parents get emotional every time I call them and ask if I am happy. I can hear the worry and frustration.” With a heavy heart, she explains how she and other nurses across the world are working to fight the pandemic.

Not skipped hospital duty for even a single day amid coronavirus crisis, says nurse

Minimole John (51), chief nursing officer

How doctors are taking part in social distancing through video consultation with patients

In an interaction with indianexpress.com, Minimole John, the chief nursing officer of a private hospital in Delhi, shares how she hasn’t missed a single day at work. “Sometimes I work for 20 hours straight,” she says.

Being in the profession for almost two decades, John handles 160 nurses, along with administrative duties, availability of PPE and stress management sessions. She goes back home to her husband and two daughters. However, for the last two months, she has been isolating herself and doesn’t meet them directly. “I talk to them over the call frequently but I haven’t hugged them in ages.” However, she takes strength from her family’s support. “My daughters sing songs to cheer me up. It was Mother’s Day and they wanted to hug me but couldn’t; they made me a beautiful card.”

Meals, chores, entertainment: Lockdown brings families closer

Each day, when she enters the COVID ward, it feels like visiting an “alternate world”. “It’s like we are at a war zone because every patient that comes to us, despite not showing symptoms, tests positive. We never know if we too may carry the disease when we report to duty one day,” remarks John.

Ratna Rana (50), chief nursing officer

“One of every five patients is likely to behave rudely with the nurses,” Ratna Rana, chief nursing officer, tells indianexpress.com. “They make comments like ‘stand at a distance’ or ‘don’t come near me’.”

In the wake of increasing incidents of violence against healthcare personnel deployed in fighting COVID-19, the Union Cabinet in the last week of April passed an ordinance to make attacks on workers a non-bailable offence, with a maximum jail term of seven years and a fine of Rs 5 lakh.

Applauding the move, she says, “In the current scenario, the decision is the right one and provides us with physical security. But when we go back home, we are looked at with suspicion just because we came in contact with a patient.” 

She believes no law can change mindsets of people who choose to treat patients and doctors as outcasts. “There are days when a lot of nurses face challenges in coming to work as people around them, including landlords, are uncomfortable with them performing their duties as they feel we are the ones spreading the virus,” she says.

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