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International Nurses Day 2021: What Is It Like To Be A Nurse In Times Of The COVID-19 Pandemic

Nurses have been fighting the battle against the COVID-19 pandemic from the frontline and now as the country grapples with the even more dangerous second wave, they continue to serve not only as backbone of the healthcare system but also as a pillar of emotional strength for patients and their families

International Nurses Day 2021: What Is It Like To Be A Nurse In Times Of The COVID-19 Pandemic
Highlights
  • Nurses are waging the war against COVID-19 as a fearless warriors: WHO
  • India has 43% less nurses than WHO norm, thus the work load is more: Expert
  • Last 3 months were rough, incredibly challenging: Archana Dwivedi, Nurse

New Delhi: As the coronavirus outbreak hit the country, nurses across the states found themselves in situations never seen before. With long work hours in tensed and harsh conditions, wearing personal protective equipment and keeping up with continuously evolving guidelines on patient care, it has been a testing period for nurses everywhere. International Nurses Day offers an opportunity to reflect on the role being played by nurses during the COVID-19 pandemic response – be it their service or their sacrifice. NDTV spoke with nurses and experts to learn about the life and work of nursing personnel in the times of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Also Read: International Nurses Day 2021: 10 Lesser Known Facts About Nurses And Why They Are A Critical Part Of The Pool Of Healthcare Infrastructure

While talking to NDTV, Lieutenant Colonel (Retired) Madhumita Dhall, Chief of Nursing, Rajiv Gandhi Cancer Institute and Research Centre (RGCIRC), Delhi said,

Serving humanity is one of the extraordinary callings. Nurses, of course, are playing an important role in the society. Today, nurses are at the cutting edge of battling pandemic, giving their best care with a smile. They carry hope and happiness with them for their patients and families. Courageously and selflessly, they are taking care of COVID patients, often giving least care to their own health in this crisis. Nurses have risen to the occasion and have gone beyond their core duty to help fight the deadly enemy.

Work-Life Balance Gone Topsy-Turvy But Duty Comes First

From wearing scrubs and surgical masks every day to work, to wearing extremely uncomfortable personal protection equipment set that includes hazmat suit (hazardous materials suit) with masks, face shield, gloves, shoe cover which cannot be removed till the end of the shift; the work attire is not the only thing that has changed during the pandemic. COVID-19 has affected every aspect of my life. Be it my work or my personal life, said 29-year-old Archana Dwivedi, Nursing Officer, King George’s Medical University (KGMU), Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh.

Ms. Dwivedi who has been working as a nurse since 2015 said that she has not seen her family since the last seven months. While during the first wave, Ms. Dwivedi was working for eight hours per day, now with the ongoing second wave there has been a drastic increase in work pressure on her and her fellow colleagues at KGMU. Now they are performing COVID duty in 12-hour shifts for 14 days at a stretch since January this year. After 14 days, nurses at KGMU are given a break of two days during which they are required to get tested for COVID-19 and then for the next 14 days they serve in other departments like Orthopedic department in case of Ms. Dwivedi, before being rostered for 14 days of next COVID duty. She said,

The working hours have just doubled this year. There is no time to think about my own health or my hobbies. At the end of the day, after reaching home, I cook something for myself, watch some news and find respite in watching few comedy videos. Then I take rest and prepare myself for the next day.

30-year-old Veenamary V, Senior Registered Nurse, BGS Gleneagles Global Hospital, Bengaluru who was supposed to get married on May 5 decided to postpone the ceremony and convinced her family and in-laws-to-be to let her stay at the nurses’ hostel of her hospital and focus on helping patients heal and fight the crisis. She said,

Despite the fatigue, I am proud to be working in order to overcome the pandemic. I may have had entirely different plans for this year and I was looking forward to the next chapter of my life but for me, as a nurse, duty comes first. I have to plan my life around my work as this is the need of the hour. This is my chance to serve my country. But, I do pray that the sense of work-life balance gets restored for all of us soon.

On the difference in amount of work during the first and the second wave, Sister Latha Nonis, Chief Nursing Officer, Fortis Hospital Bannerghatta Road, Bengaluru who has been performing COVID duty since the pandemic hit the country said,

Since the second wave has hit the country, we have been getting requests for one-on-one care for the patients from their family members and we are finding it hard to come up to their expectations. But being a nurse, one cannot compromise on the care. My family is really supportive. I have a 26-year-old son. And so even though maintaining life and work in a balance is tough, I am still in a better position as compared to other staff members who have young children in the family or elderlies but are staying away from them in the wake of the increased workload.

Also Read: International Nurses Day 2021 Seeks To Set A Roadmap For Future Of Nursing

Pandemic Is Taking Toll On Physical As Well As Emotional Well Being Of The Nurses

Ms. Dwivedi highlighted that a nurse needs to monitor patients continuously, something which doctors do not do. She added that nurses do not get a chance to take a break during the shift or lie down for a minute or two. She said,

In April, on 8th or 9th day of my 14-day COVID duty, I felt dizzy because of the heat generated from the body in a PPE and sweating. I really wanted to take off the PPE for few minutes, but I did not do it because that could have exposed me to the virus. PPE kits are taken off in a very systematic manner to avoid infections which takes at least 20 minutes. So, I continued working even though I was feeling sick. Currently, because of the second wave, the situation is such that we cannot even ask for a leave. All the leaves have been cancelled. I understand that these steps are important, but these are affecting not only the physical health of nurses but also their mental health. The last three months have been rough and incredibly challenging.

Sister Bindu, Nurse from Fortis Hospital Bannerghatta Road, Bangalore got infected with COVID-19 last year while taking care of the patients. She said,

I work eight hours a day and six days a week. Sometimes on all seven days depending on the situation. Being working in a COVID ward continuously, I was expecting that I myself can get infected even after taking maximum precautions. I got the infection last year, but I recovered fully within 15 days. I monitored myself well and took all medicines on time and increased my liquid intake.

But that is not it, with COVID-19 patients being isolated without visits from family and friends, nurses have taken it upon themselves to provide emotional support to them, said Dr Sukhpal Kaur, Acting Principal, National Institute for Nursing Education (NINE) at the Post Graduate Institute of Medical Education and Research (PGIMER), Chandigarh.

However, the pandemic is taking toll on their emotional well being as well. Watching patients die every day, enormous pressure of managing the patients pouring in since the second wave has started, being far from loved ones, long and tedious working hours, the physical burden of wearing PPE, no access to the washroom due to PPEs or the freedom to eat or drink water because you cannot just open the PPE kit anytime you want- this is all harming the mental and physical health of our nurses. Not a single day goes by without hearing about more than one nurse succumbing to the pandemic, Dr Kaur added.

Dr Kaur further added that in order to minimise the fear, anxiety and doubts and to boost the morale of the nursing staff, capacity building and capacity strengthening both in terms of quality and quantity for nurses are critical. Sister Latha Nonis shared that in order to help nurses deal with mental health issues, they have started the practice of having sessions with psychologists. They are also trying to deal with this issue by creating a WhatsApp group to circulate jokes and conduct fun activities to keep nurses enthusiastic.

Watch: COVID Warrior: Nurse Travels With Her Newborn From Vishakhapatnam By Road To Serve The Nation

Caring For The Caregiver Is Imperative, They Are Less In Number And Vital To The Society: Trained Nurses Association of India

Dr. L. Gopichandran, faculty at College of Nursing, All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), New Delhi and Vice president of (TNAI) Delhi Branch said,

The life saving work of these frontline heroes during the COVID-19 will forever be remembered for generations to come. But today, it is extremely important to ensure safety of our caregivers. Safety not just in the medical terms but also in terms of their career development. Many of our country’s nurses go and serve in other countries because there they get much better opportunities. The Indian nurses are known for their commitment and competency, and the global demand for our nurses is very high. The migration of nurses due to low salary and working conditions in our country results in brain drain and is of great concern. It is high time that policymakers in India think about retaining our nurses in the country. We are already suffering an acute shortage of nurses. The work load on the existing nurses is extremely high. The country has 43 per cent less nurses than what IS recommended by the World Health Organisation (WHO).

According to WHO, there should be at least three nurses per 1,000 people. However, in a reply to a question in Rajya Sabha (dated March 3, 2020), Ashwini Kumar Choubey, Minister of State for the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare said that the country has 1.7 nursing personnel per 1,000 population which includes nurses, midwives, women health visitors and auxiliary nurse midwives. In total there are over 21 lakh (21,29,820) Registered Nurses and Registered Midwives.

Creating a better system for career development for nurses is vital to retain our empowered nurses in India, so that our country can benefit from its own competent and dedicated nurses who are integral in preventive and promotive healthcare activities to build a better India, added Dr Gopichandran.

Also Read: COVID Warriors: ‘Stay At Home Unless Absolutely Necessary,’ Says Piyush, A COVID Nurse From Mumbai

There Is Still Hope And If All Cooperate With Each Other, We Will Defeat The Virus: Senior Nurse

Since the pandemic has hit the country, the situation faced by nurses on a daily basis has been traumatic, said Dr Lalitha Reddy, Vice President, Telemedicine society of India and Founder of ForMen And ForKids, an online health and wellness company. While talking about how people should derive inspiration from the selfless service of nurses, She said,

Nurses play a pivotal role in care of COVID patients and their recovery. Timely administration of the medicines prescribed by doctors, in correct doses along with detecting early warning signs, careful monitoring and supportive care lead to complete patient recovery. They are the most exposed to the patients and are at a high risk of contracting the infection. This exposure combined with tremendous stress, which lowers their immune system, puts them at great risk. However, they always carry on with their work without complaining. Most of the nurses have young children and elderly parents at home, but they brave the risks and carry on with their selfless work, doing extended duties and back breaking night shifts. At this hour of need, we all must come together, be inspired by our nurses, cooperate with each other and help them combat the virus. They are the backbone of healthcare system.

Talking about the need to remain hopeful, Sister Latha Nonis, Chief Nursing Officer, Fortis Hospital Bannerghatta Road, Bengaluru urged the nurses and patients to have a positive outlook and never lose hope. She added,

If people continue taking precautions like wearing masks, maintaining social distancing, monitoring one’s condition and along with this caring for each other, the we will definitely defeat COVID-19 soon.

In her message to people, Sister Bindu, Nurse, Fortis Hospital Bannerghatta Road, Bengaluru underlined the importance of self-monitoring the symptoms. She said that in order to reduce the tremendous burden that hospitals are facing currently, people should not rush to hospitals when getting infected. She said,

These are unprecedented and so people can get overwhelmed on getting a COVID positive test result. But please stay calm and do not rush to the hospital. Try contacting a doctor, stay at home and monitor your temperature and oxygen saturation. Go to a hospital only if you have a comorbidity like diabetes, kidney issue or any other such disease. Unless the situation is severe do not block an oxygen bed or someone in need of it might lose out.

Also Read: COVID Fighters: Meet Agnes, A Head Nurse From Mumbai Who Is Posted In A COVID-19 Dedicated Hospital

NDTV – Dettol Banega Swasth India campaign is an extension of the five-year-old Banega Swachh India initiative helmed by Campaign Ambassador Amitabh Bachchan. It aims to spread awareness about critical health issues facing the country. In wake of the current COVID-19 pandemic, the need for WASH (WaterSanitation and Hygiene) is reaffirmed as handwashing is one of the ways to prevent Coronavirus infection and other diseases. The campaign highlights the importance of nutrition and healthcare for women and children to prevent maternal and child mortality, fight malnutrition, stunting, wasting, anaemia and disease prevention through vaccines. Importance of programmes like Public Distribution System (PDS), Mid-day Meal Scheme, POSHAN Abhiyan and the role of Aganwadis and ASHA workers are also covered. Only a Swachh or clean India where toilets are used and open defecation free (ODF) status achieved as part of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2014, can eradicate diseases like diahorrea and become a Swasth or healthy India. The campaign will continue to cover issues like air pollutionwaste managementplastic banmanual scavenging and sanitation workers and menstrual hygiene

World

24,33,49,378Cases
20,48,57,171Active
3,35,48,605Recovered
49,43,602Deaths
Coronavirus has spread to 195 countries. The total confirmed cases worldwide are 24,33,49,378 and 49,43,602 have died; 20,48,57,171 are active cases and 3,35,48,605 have recovered as on October 24, 2021 at 3:48 am.

India

3,41,75,468 15,906Cases
1,72,5941,134Active
3,35,48,605 16,479Recovered
4,54,269 561Deaths
In India, there are 3,41,75,468 confirmed cases including 4,54,269 deaths. The number of active cases is 1,72,594 and 3,35,48,605 have recovered as on October 24, 2021 at 2:30 am.

State Details

State Cases Active Recovered Deaths
Maharashtra

66,01,551 1,701

27,634 113

64,33,919 1,781

1,39,998 33

Kerala

49,06,793 8,909

81,155 335

47,97,409 8,780

28,229 464

Karnataka

29,85,598 371

8,943 23

29,38,653 341

38,002 7

Tamil Nadu

26,94,089 1,140

13,280 251

26,44,805 1,374

36,004 17

Andhra Pradesh

20,63,177 396

5,222 176

20,43,616 566

14,339 6

Uttar Pradesh

17,10,082 13

94 9

16,87,089 4

22,899

West Bengal

15,85,466 974

7,731 154

15,58,690 808

19,045 12

Delhi

14,39,566 40

334 6

14,14,141 46

25,091

Odisha

10,37,964 441

4,152 45

10,25,507 482

8,305 4

Chhattisgarh

10,05,827 28

230 16

9,92,025 12

13,572

Rajasthan

9,54,400 4

32 0

9,45,414 4

8,954

Gujarat

8,26,402 24

168 3

8,16,147 21

10,087

Madhya Pradesh

7,92,740 11

79 1

7,82,138 12

10,523

Haryana

7,71,141 8

115 7

7,60,977 15

10,049

Bihar

7,26,054 9

36 6

7,16,357 3

9,661

Telangana

6,70,139 207

3,984 21

6,62,209 184

3,946 2

Assam

6,08,450 324

3,968 102

5,98,515 219

5,967 3

Punjab

6,02,189 26

231 1

5,85,407 25

16,551

Jharkhand

3,48,592 30

202 19

3,43,255 11

5,135

Uttarakhand

3,43,815 16

169 3

3,36,248 13

7,398

Jammu And Kashmir

3,31,566 72

862 8

3,26,275 80

4,429

Himachal Pradesh

2,22,569 257

1,578 95

2,17,257 161

3,734 1

Goa

1,77,852 33

574 26

1,73,920 58

3,358 1

Puducherry

1,27,674 53

457 3

1,25,362 48

1,855 2

Manipur

1,23,229 122

961 55

1,20,361 67

1,907

Mizoram

1,17,261 572

8,943 693

1,07,911 1,258

407 7

Tripura

84,384 8

101 3

83,467 5

816

Meghalaya

83,322 53

695 3

81,184 56

1,443

Chandigarh

65,321 1

27 1

64,474 2

820

Arunachal Pradesh

55,089 14

142 1

54,667 13

280

Sikkim

31,868 26

195 12

31,279 13

394 1

Nagaland

31,707 18

250 5

30,778 12

679 1

Ladakh

20,899 3

38 2

20,653 5

208

Dadra And Nagar Haveli

10,679

4 0

10,671

4

Lakshadweep

10,365

0 0

10,314

51

Andaman And Nicobar Islands

7,648 2

8 2

7,511

129

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