Nurs­ing the World to Health - Nightin­gale’s Spirit Shines in Deadly Coro­n­avirus Fight

Fiji Sun - - NEWS -

When­ever there is a pub­lic health scare, peo­ple of­ten think of doc­tors. But the coro­n­avirus pan­demic has put the spot­light on an over­looked group in the health­care sec­tor - nurses.

Tues­day, or May 12, is In­ter­na­tional Nurses Day, an an­nual cel­e­bra­tion of the cru­cial work of nurses around the world.

To Liu Hui, head nurse in the De­part­ment of In­ten­sive Care Unit (ICU) Cen­tre at Jiangsu Prov­ince Hos­pi­tal, the novel coro­n­avirus has left an in­deli­ble mark on her ca­reer. On May 10, af­ter more than 70 days of work at a hos­pi­tal in Wuhan - hit hard by the novel coro­n­avirus out­break - and a fort­night quar­an­tine, Liu and six other col­leagues - the last batch of in­ten­sive care spe­cial­ists that stayed in Wuhan to treat se­verely ill COVID-19 pa­tients from Jiangsu Prov­ince Hos­pi­tal, were fi­nally freed.

“I’m back, and you can rest easy,” said the masked nurse to her mother. She gave the old lady a big hug and a kiss. Her col­league, Chu Min­juan, held back her tears while hear­ing her hus­band re­peat­ing the same sen­tence.

“It’s good to have you back. It’s good to have you back.”

De­vo­tion to duty

Ms Liu and her team ar­rived in Wuhan on the night of Feb. 13 and they im­me­di­ately threw them­selves into their work. The next day, all the 61 beds at the hos­pi­tal’s in­ten­sive care unit they took over were full.

“In the first week, I could only sleep a few hours a day,” Ms Liu said.

“COVID-19 pa­tients have to be iso­lated from their fam­ily mem­bers, so the nurses take com­plete charge. They per­form a range of roles and have to know how to use ven­ti­la­tors, mon­i­tors, hemodial­y­sis ma­chines, ECMO, and other pieces of life-sav­ing equip­ment,” Chu said. Ac­cord­ing to Qiu Haibo, deputy Party sec­re­tary of Zhongda Hos­pi­tal South­east Univer­sity, many COVID-19 pa­tients had symp­toms called “silent hy­pox­emia” - their lips were not as pur­ple as un­der hy­poxia, and their heart and res­pi­ra­tory rates not as fast, but their con­di­tion can worsen in the twin­kle of an eye.

“They, there­fore, re­quire more close ob­ser­va­tion from us on the sub­tle changes of their con­di­tions and we must timely com­mu­ni­cate with doc­tors,” said Ms Chu.

“We would work out a cus­tomised nurs­ing plan for each pa­tient af­ter an early as­sess­ment. We tried our ut­most to ease their pain and pro­tect the phys­i­o­log­i­cal func­tions of se­verely-ill pa­tients,” Ms Chu said. “Doc­tors and nurses are com­rades in arms. Doc­tors pre­scribe the strat­egy of ther­a­peu­tic so­lu­tions while nurses carry out the ther­apy, check pa­tients’ con­di­tion, and com­mu­ni­cate di­rectly with the pa­tients,” she said.

The role of nurses is even more im­por­tant for pa­tients in ICUs.

“Pa­tients with ba­sic diseases or those who are bedrid­den, in par­tic­u­lar, need ex­tra at­ten­tion for is­sues such as skin in­juries and post-dis­ease re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion. We also of­fer psy­cho­log­i­cal coun­sel­ing to pa­tients who have lost their loved ones, or suf­fer men­tal stress,” Ms Liu said.

In China’s bat­tle against the novel coro­n­avirus, high-qual­ity nurs­ing ser­vice has made great con­tri­bu­tions to re­duc­ing the death rate of the epi­demic.

Ac­cord­ing to the Na­tional Health Com­mis­sion, among the 42,600 med­i­cal work­ers dis­patched to sup­port virus-hit Hubei Prov­ince, about 28,600 are nurses, ac­count­ing for al­most 70 per­cent of the to­tal.

Change needed in fe­male­dom­i­nated nurs­ing

Nurses ac­count for more than half of all the world’s health work­ers, pro­vid­ing vi­tal ser­vices through­out the health sys­tem.

His­tor­i­cally, as well as to­day, nurses are at the fore­front of fight­ing epi­demics and pan­demics that threaten health across the globe, ac­cord­ing to the State of the World’s Nurs­ing Re­port 2020 re­leased by the World Health Or­gan­i­sa­tion (WHO) in part­ner­ship with the In­ter­na­tional Coun­cil of Nurses and Nurs­ing Now.

Re­port: About 90 per­cent nurses around the world are fe­male

The re­port also high­lighted that about 90 per cent of all nurses around the world are fe­male and calls for con­tin­ued ef­forts in op­ti­mis­ing the fe­male-dom­i­nated do­main.

China, too, has worked hard to at­tract more men to join the nurs­ing ranks.

Fan Leilei, a 23-year-old male nurse, just grad­u­ated from a nurs­ing school in 2018. In less than two years, he has built up ex­pe­ri­ence in crit­i­cal care and was dis­patched to the front­line in Hubei to join the fight against COVID-19.

Mr Fan ar­rived in Hubei with the third batch of Shang­hai medics on Jan­uary 28.

“I was shocked at how de­serted the air­port was,” he re­called.

“It was then that I re­alised the epi­demic was not just a topic on WeChat but was ac­tu­ally hap­pen­ing, and we had to take im­me­di­ate ac­tion.”

Mr Fan and his col­leagues worked in pairs on four-hour shifts. Their work was ex­tremely de­tailed from feed­ing the pa­tients, help­ing them turn over, to chang­ing sheets and di­a­pers for them.

“Both women and men have their ad­van­tages in nurs­ing,” said Fan. “In the face of a sit­u­a­tion like this, we have our own mer­its in terms of phys­i­cal strength, en­ergy and op­er­a­tion of var­i­ous med­i­cal de­vices.” The hos­pi­tal Mr Fan works at has set up a team con­sist­ing purely of male nurses. The team, named af­ter Nightin­gale, who is known as the fun­da­men­tal philoso­pher of mod­ern nurs­ing, is a move to help at­tract more males to join nurs­ing in China.

The theme of this year’s In­ter­na­tional Nurses Day is “A voice to lead -- Nurs­ing the world to health,” il­lus­trat­ing how nurses can over­come a wide range of health is­sues. And what makes this year’s cel­e­bra­tion ex­tra spe­cial is that 2020 is also the 200th an­niver­sary of Nightin­gale’s birth.

Chi­nese nurses are play­ing an in­dis­pens­able role in the fight against the virus out­break. Among the 42,600 med­i­cal staff across the coun­try sent to aid Hubei, al­most 90 per cent were born af­ter 1980 and 40 per cent were born af­ter 1990. “Th­ese young nurses showed their brav­ery and power of youth, and have set an ex­am­ple for all the young peo­ple,” said Guo Yan­hong, an of­fi­cial with the Na­tional Health Com­mis­sion.

Photo: Xin­hua

Newly-re­cruited nurses take an oath dur­ing a cap­ping cer­e­mony at Pek­ing Univer­sity Peo­ple’s Hos­pi­tal in Beijing, cap­i­tal of China, on April 26, 2020.

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