Nurses step up to the situation

A health worker coming out of a vaccination camp at Government Girls Higher Secondary School, Malappuram, on International Nurses Day on Wednesday.   | Photo Credit: SAKEER HUSSAIN

From administering vaccines to monitoring critically ill patients, nurses, though tired themselves, are powering a health-care system stretched to the limits by COVID-19.

“It is not just that the number of patients has grown, but they are also coming in more sick,” says Deepa T.V., a nurse on COVID ICU duty at Pariyaram Medical College in Kannur.

“A typical day is around six hours. Both physically and mentally... we’re waiting for this to end, but the end seems to be nowhere in sight, the way it’s going now,” she says. “There is of course, the fear associated with COVID-19 itself. Patients come into the ICU scared and breathless. You want to save everybody, but then you also see deaths, which leave an impact,” says Deepa, who recovered from COVID-19 in October last year.

“We are now posting nurses only for around three to four hours at a time in the ICU since standing around for hours in PPE kit can be difficult. Nurses are still testing positive, despite taking all precautions,” says Maya Sreekumar, a senior staff nurse at the Government Medical College Hospital, Kottayam, who is posted in one of the COVID wards.

“Earlier, we used to isolate for a few days after COVID duty. But now there is no time for this isolation period, which means we’re worried about carrying the infection home,” she says.

“Women continue to dominate this particular section of the workforce. The caregiving role of women is emphasised, but it’s not that men are any less as caregivers,” says retired nurse Molly O.S., president of the CITU-affiliated Kerala Nurses Union.

“Caught between work and family responsibilities, women find it difficult to organise or protest. While nurses are being glorified now as angels, their situation, whether in terms of additional benefits or working conditions, has to improve, particularly since a large number of temporary postings are now being made to augment the workforce,” she says.

Nurses have also been lauded for zero wastage of COVID vaccines. “Once a 10 ml vial is opened, it needs to be used in around four hours. We make sure that enough people are around to take the shots before the vial is opened. While 10 shots can usually be given with one vial and 0.5 ml is considered wastage, we have squeezed in 11 shots with that last 0.5 ml,” says Litto Kuriakose, a staff nurse who was part of a mobile vaccination unit in Ernakulam.

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Printable version | Jun 13, 2021 9:14:52 AM |

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