PETALING JAYA: With the conditional movement control order (MCO) in effect until June 9, nurses across the country continue to battle it out on the front lines of the war against Covid-19 despite the fear and anxiety.
While Malaysia has done relatively well in addressing the health crisis, nurses are urging people to not let up in observing precautionary measures.
When asked about their wishes as the world celebrates International Nurses Day today, the nurses interviewed by The Star expressed hope that the Covid-19 pandemic would end soon.
At the same time, they pointed out that everybody has a part to play in this global fight.
Stella Bernard, a nurse with 25 years’ experience and who was posted to a quarantine centre in Sabah, said her big wish was for the eradication of the coronavirus as soon as possible.
“This is a war – a huge war that silently kills people, ” she said.
Bernard has dealt with other disease outbreaks such as severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), Influenza A (H1N1), Ebola, and Middle East respiratory syndrome-related coronavirus (MERS), but to her, Covid-19 is the most challenging task she has ever faced.
“Most of us are worried about getting infected. How should we go home after caring for patients? Do we have enough personal protective equipment (PPE) for everyone?” she said.
Despite the high stress of caring for Covid-19 patients, Bernard said the experience had shaped her and her colleagues into a stronger team because they constantly checked with each other on whether they were wearing PPE correctly, washing their hands and taking supplements.
“Our bond has strengthened and we have pledged to serve for the sake of the nation. We see this as a war with the virus and we have accepted the challenge of fighting it.
“Many times, I have given my colleagues a lot of courage and guidance as I lead them in saving lives. That is my responsibility as a nursing sister, ” she said.
Sharif Mohd Iswan Mohd Idris, a nurse with Hospital Queen Elizabeth Kota Kinabalu, hopes no more healthcare workers would be infected with Covid-19.
It was previously reported that more than 300 had tested positive.
To him, the key to frontliners avoiding the disease is the prompt acquisition of PPE when needed.
Sharif has been a nurse for eight years and specialises in HIV/AIDS counselling. He said his recent experience working at the Covid-19 isolation ward taught him many important lessons on handling daily duties during a pandemic.
“As a frontliner in this pandemic, sometimes I worry about infecting my family and other loved ones. But I know I’m strong enough to face this situation, ” he said.
At the same time, he conceded that the experience came with a price because it was exhausting to wear PPE during his shifts.
“To be honest, I felt hot and sweated a lot. But at the same time, I felt safe. PPE is very important, ” he said.
With Hari Raya approaching, Sharif advised Malaysians to strictly obey the conditional MCO rules so as to care for the elderly and the young, who are mainly at risk.
“Let’s stay healthy and stay safe at home, ” he said.
Hannah Raherre, another Sabahan nurse who has been with the emergency and trauma department for 10 years, said her daily duties had changed drastically due to Covid-19.
She said adherence to hygiene and PPE requirements were paramount now.
For example, mandatory showers are the norm and working 12 hours a day is standard because of a lack of manpower.
“At times, we don’t get off days because there aren’t enough people as some of them were quarantined due to accidental direct contact with positive patients.
“Sometimes when I look at a patient, I know that this could be me tomorrow if I’m not careful or if I’m just not lucky. But ensuring health and treating Malaysians are our responsibility and duty, ” she said.
“I hope Malaysians will remain united in the war against Covid-19 by always adhering to preventive measures, ” she said.
Meanwhile, hospital operator KPJ Healthcare Bhd said more nurses should be leaders because nursing was the backbone of the healthcare industry.
Its chief nursing officer Maygala Arumugam said the personality and training of nurses, which was centred around caring and nurturing, translated well in leadership roles.
“Nurses are inspirational leaders who lead by example and have their patients’ health and safety at heart, ” she said in a statement issued in conjunction with International Nurses Day.