Nursing in the Covid-19 pandemic

The world of nursing is always a bit surreal, one moment you are just looking after yourself, only your life is in your hands, and then the next, you are at work and often 8 (sometimes more, sometimes less) lives are in your hands. The smallest decisions you make can make or break a persons recovery.

I'm currently a third year student nurse, I qualify in about 8 months time, I realise now, people were being completely serious when they told me at the start of this journey that the time would fly by and before I know it I would be qualified. This summer marks by 4 years of working within the NHS, that has also flown by, if I'm completely honest I thought I would maybe stay for a couple of years then go and try something else out, but here we are, progressing career-wise and learning new things every day.

Personally, I have been lucky so far during the pandemic, I have not seen any confirmed covid-19 cases in my work areas but that does not mean that it is business as usual. There is the obvious, we now wear masks for 12.5 hours, for me personally I wear a mask from 06:50 when I get the bus to work until 20:30 when I get off the bus. I have been quite lucky, I wore masks for long periods of time on my previous placement at the end of 2019 so I was somewhat used to wearing the masks! However, that doesn't mean my skin is not paying the price for wearing these masks. I won't lie, they aren't the comfiest, I wear glasses so I have to pull the masks quite tight to prevent fogging, I usually end the shift with a very red nose as the masks rub my nose every time I move my face! My ears hurt from the ear loops on the masks, I have tried some of the homemade headbands which were so kindly donated to the hospital, but often when I use these I do not get the correct fit of my mask and then my glasses steam up and I would rather have sore ears than not be able to see!

Another impact of covid-19 is the heartbreaking impact on patients. Not allowing patients to have visitors is horrible, some hospitals in the UK are slowing opening up the visiting again, but they aren't in the hospital I am working in currently. It is horrible seeing patients having to hear details about their diagnosis, good or bad, alone with no friends or family there for support. Yes, we as nurses and our colleagues try our best to support the patients but no matter how hard we try it is not the same as friends and family being there. It is heartbreaking having to break news to relatives over the phone, the communication is lacking, you don't see peoples facial expressions or body language, meaning you miss out on so much of what someone is wanting to communicate with you.

Another impact is the staffing levels and staff morale, these go hand in hand. A lot of staff are on long term leave due to them having to shield from Covid-19, or having a loved one who they live with, who needs to shield at home as a result of a pre-existing long term condition. This obviously means that we are sometimes working on lower staffing levels, and on top of this, staff and falling ill with symptoms, whether they are positive or negative covid-19 results, they are work for a few days at least meaning we are running short on staff again. Having low levels of staff mean that staff morale is low, everyone has to step up and take on more roles on top of what they already do, this can be time-consuming. Personally I have struggled recently with the additional cleaning responsibilities I have to complete, yes, it does not take long to clean every door handle on the ward (it took me about 10 minutes yesterday), but that time would have previously been spent speaking to patients, or their relatives on the phone to update them or completing other tasks which need doing but is put on hold. I have struggled to come to terms with the fact that I can't spend that 10 minutes talking to a patient, which is one of my favourite parts of the job, I am missing out on hearing elderly patients life stories, or young patients telling me their life aspirations, it is tough because I often feel that having these conversations with patients often allow us as nurses to have a more personal relationship with the patient, it allows us to see them as people, and them to see us as people.

There is a lot more I could say about nursing during the covid-19 pandemic, but I'll save them for another day!

So, until next time, stay safe and wear your masks!

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