By Shirley Roberts
National Nursing Week annual celebrations take place May 10-16, 2021, the same week as Florence Nightingale’s birthday, May 12. Nightingale (1820-1910) was a social reformer and widely credited with being the founder of modern nursing.
The theme this year #WeAnswerTheCall was developed by The Canadian Nursing Association to showcase the many roles that nurses play in a patient’s health-care journey. The pandemic brought to light the courage and commitment that nurses work with every day and highlights the important role that nurses play in the fight against COVID-19.
Two nurses employed at Michael Garron Hospital shared their stories about working in health care during this pandemic. Grace Duncan is a Registered Nurse and Baby Dela Cruz is a Registered Practical Nurse. They have supported patients and families in a variety of roles throughout the past year and were kind enough to give us some of their time to answer some questions.
Nurses have been front and centre in the care, prevention, and treatment of people facing COVID-19 since the beginning of the pandemic. As a Nurse:
What has been your role in caring for people in the community or hospital setting to address COVID-19?
Grace: “I have worked as a Charge Nurse in the Intensive Care Unit supporting the staff and the families of patients affected by COVID-19; as a Screener and support to patients and visitors attending appointments in the hospital; as a Nurse in the vaccination clinic and currently as a Nurse working in the “Virtual Ward”, providing support and monitoring of patients who have tested positive for COVID-19 and are being managed at home”.
“After the first wave I saw a real shift in the care of patients particularly with the restrictions on family visits and seeing the number of patients admitted to ICU but not leaving. Not being able to hold a patient’s hand really bothered me”. In the Virtual Ward where she follows up on patients who are recovering from COVID-19 at home, her care has been holistic, monitoring for changes in signs and symptoms, escalating their care when symptoms worsened, providing education and support through fears of the unknown, developing trust and providing reassurance that they are not facing this alone.
Baby: “I was the very first one who was redeployed to the Covid Assessment Centre in the early days when not much was known about COVID-19. It was scary in the beginning because we did not have a lot of information about the virus”.
As a Screener, Baby supported families and visitors accessing hospital appointments. “This was a challenging position where I had to deal with patients, family and visitors who are scared, anxious, and frustrated, making them answer screening questions, making them wash hands, making them wear masks and at times, denying them of entry to the hospital”.
Baby also facilitated Zoom calls between patients and families who were not allowed to visit sick relatives in person, and currently moves across various hospital units providing nursing care where she is needed most.
Although your role as a nurse is largely about the care of others, how are you taking care of yourself?
Grace: “This is so important. Seeing the rising numbers of people diagnosed with COVID-19 on a daily basis is so intense, I try to refocus and energize to prepare for the next day. I try my best to not take home a particular situation with a patient. I walk a lot, use meditative moments, play CDs with a spiritual uplifting message, and talk to my family and friends.”
Baby: “I work 16 hour shifts. I look after myself by eating comfort food which is not usually healthy food, taking long showers or bubble baths, watching movies, going onto Facebook, playing games. I also renewed my love for reading, connecting to family and friends in a different way”.
What do you think are some of the challenges that nurses face in taking care of themselves during this time?
Grace: “The big thing for nurses who are working directly with patients especially in ICU rendering care day after day not knowing what might happen to themselves. Also, the patients being affected are getting younger and younger and sometimes not making it. It’s too much. Very hard to deal with”.
Baby: “Nurses are too tired, it’s almost impossible to get a day off or vacation.
What do you think that nurses need to feel supported by the community/general public?
Grace: “Nurses want to know that the organization supports you, that there is a forum to express yourself and recognition of what we’re going through, that we are appreciated.”
Baby: “For us nurses, it would be nice if we would be given pandemic pay until it is over, a tax break, most if not all nurses are working overtime, overworked and overtaxed, a tax break would be very much appreciated; and added vacation and sick time.
Is there anything else that you would like to comment on in celebration of nurses?
Grace: “This is a great body of caring people. That’s why we do what we do. We care about what happens to people. But we are people too and need to remember to care for each other and to stand together, showing kindness and support and embrace each other a lot (even if virtually)”.
Baby: “LONG LIVE NURSES… WE RISK OUR LIVES TO SAVE YOURS”.