By Emsie Martin
Currently nursing staff are in the frontlines and not all of them are prepared to talk about their emotions.
According to an occupational therapist working in provincial and private facilities, in their careers the exposure is not as intense as that of fulltime hospital staff. However, it is not necessarily the fear of working with Covid-19 patients, but rather the frustrations caused by the preventative measures. The masks and face shields make it difficult to communicate with patients on an emotional level, especially in a mental health environment. Group therapy also does not take place. According to her, patients benefit a lot more from group therapy. Staff hold virtual team-building sessions outside of work just to lighten emotions to a small degree. Furthermore, she says, “everyone just has to make sure that they refill their tanks at home!”.
According to a nurse at a private hospital, she is passionate about her work. It is fulfilling to be there for patients in this difficult time, especially now that visiting hours are not being allowed. It is inhuman to keep someone from his/her family in his/her last days. It remains a challenge to work wearing the mask and goggles and the full personal protection equipment, but it is essential. She considers it a privilege to be healthy enough to work in this time and in so doing be able to make a difference.
Practical proposals to take care of yourself:
During this time, nursing staff can experience that family members avoid them due to fear of being exposed to the virus. This makes the already challenging situation much more difficult.
- It is important to stay in contact, now more than ever. People need social interaction, but fortunately one can nowadays stay in contact with family and friends in various ways, such as Skype, WhatsApp-videocall etc. It might not be the same as before the lockdown, but can serve as a kind of surrogate.
- Identify and acknowledge any signs of stress that you may experience and handle it in an effective way.
- Be on the lookout for those little red flags, such as:
- heightened irritability,
- fatigue that might be more severe than is usually the case,
- loss of appetite,
- withdrawal from family and friends (even though you cannot visit them physically),
- sudden fits of rage and
- Avoid substances to help you cope with the situation, such as cigarettes, alcohol and drugs. It is detrimental to your mental and physical wellbeing.
- It is normal for nursing staff to under these circumstances feel as if they are under extra pressure and also struggle with the underlying concern that they are being exposed to the virus themselves.
- Eat healthily, exercise, maintain a routine, look after yourself.
· These are difficult times for everyone. You may now exercise anytime of day, which makes it easier for people who work irregular hours. Exchange 30 minutes in front of the TV for 30 minutes of walking or jogging. Exercise does wonders for the brain.
- Make time for other activities that bring you joy, such as hobbies, music, reading etc. This can also help to relieve the day’s stress.
- Many people who work and especially health care personnel must avoid constantly fretting about contracting the virus. It is like sitting in a rocking chair – it gives you something to do but doesn’t go anywhere.
Although the threat is real, we should not underestimate the human body’s ability to combat a virus – especially if you are healthy and do not have any underlying health problems.
It is probable that 95% of all people who contract the virus will only have a few or mild symptoms and will recover in a short time. The situation is bound to change at one stage or another. We all have to stand strong during the early months, as people will in time start building up their natural immunity (known as herd immunity).
In the meantime, be sensible, but don’t stop living. Focus on the things over which you have control. So be more proactive: wash your hands, follow the government’s lockdown measures and do everything you can to remain safe.
Personal comments from nursing staff.
Article originally appeared in: AftertheCall.org