A Nurse’s True Story: Living in Fear and Hope on the Front Lines !

I recently saw a statement “Nurses aren’t super heroes, Nurses are exhausted!”

I couldn’t help but chuckle to myself, wow you got that right.

Heralded by all as “frontline warriors” at the start of the pandemic, nursing personnel took up gears and stood bravely next to other healthcare persons. Many left their families and practically secluded themselves in an effort to reduce the spread of this new and virulent virus.

Almost two years into the fight it is clear that without nurses on the frontline hospitals will come to a complete stop. Intensive care or covid-19 care simply could not happen. Trained, competent and willing nurses are not at an infinite supply. It is a very difficult time and not everyone is coping well.

There is constant fear of contracting the virus. I am concerned for myself, my family and my colleagues. I believe my family is fedup of my extreme measures.

I don’t attend family gatherings. I have hugged my mother only twice since 2020 even though she lives right here in Trinidad. I have visited her many times and sat in the yard while she spoke to me from the veranda. I give gifts of facemasks, cleaning supplies and lysol. Anyone visiting my home must shower and change into fresh clothing. I disrobe as soon as I enter my home.

At work I am in daily close contact with many clients, many of whom display covid-19 symptoms because I am attached to a covid-19 isolation unit. This doesn’t phase me as I put myself in my patients shoes: having Covid-19 is hard and being isolated is difficult. I try to always encourage patients to stay positive, nursing care is holistic and we focus on mind, body and soul.

What irks me is lack of materials and delays in delivery of health. Currently there is a nationwide shortage of sterile gloves. Some of the materials are also substandard. Recently I put on an isolation gown and it separated at the seams. Thank God I had not yet entered the HOT ZONE.

We have grown accustomed to providing care without materials, nurses can improvise well.

To survive in this fight you have to have a deep understanding of what a war requires. I visualize myself going to battle each day. I tell my colleagues we are at war. Things will not be perfect but to get through we must stick together. Thankfully I have not contracted Covid-19, so my obsessive tendencies are working effectively. I worry, though, that the forever cleaning and use of all these chemicals will have a long term effect.

It would appear that I am coping well, but deep down I am not. I am hurting and I am tired of hurting.

As a society we are accustomed to the shortcomings of the government service, accustomed to hearing our supply stores do not have the requested materials. We are accustomed to our nine day cycle. It feels like nine hundred and ninety nine days have gone by and were still swamped by Covid-19.

On a daily basis thousands of procedures are being done safely. Hospitals operate on a 24hr basis. There are hundreds of safe births daily, at hospitals in spite of a shortage of midwives.

So what drives me on, what makes me return to this battlefield each day?

I return because I know the hospital is always filled. Filled with citizens just like me. There are people there who depend on me to give them care. There are persons who need an advocate, persons who never knew how to correctly take their meds, persons who required total care and persons who need a listening ear. I return because I care, the remuneration is far below international standards so personally that can never be my drive.

I have a very supportive partner and good family support.

I wonder if they mean we are superheroes because our living out allowance is $100 a month and the Enrolled nursing assistant doesn’t get a living out allowance? Can you imagine looking for an apartment to rent in 2022 with $100 TT dollars?

Superheroes can fly. Can we fly?

Nurses are hardworking, dedicated professionals who understand our chosen vocation and remain committed to serve our country and our people in this time of war. A nurse can do many things but no one can do the job of a nurse!

– Letitia Cox, 2nd Vice President, Trinidad and Tobago Registered Nurses Association