It’s been 13 years since I started practicing as a nurse. I’ve had my fair share of high moments where I went above the call of duty with cheer; low moments where I questioned my life’s direction in tears (literally).
I don’t want to bore you with tales about working longer shifts, performing complicated, life-saving manoeuvres on the sick and how nurses are a first line of defence during the coronavirus crisis. That said, permit me to delve into my life’s journey while giving you a glimpse into what it means to be a Nurse.
I pray it warms your heart.
I originally didn’t choose nursing for a career; nursing chose me.
I couldn’t get grades A or B in both Elective Maths and Chemistry to pursue a Degree in Pharmacology; my hopes of becoming a Registered Pharmacist were dashed and I was done schooling if there wasn’t a chance I could read Pharmacology. I simply wasn’t prepared to re-write those two papers considering all the efforts I put in the first time.
I remember vividly how my granny (Saaba) of blessed memory convinced me that it wasn’t the end of the world. She maintained that I needed to look at other areas I could go into with my Science background. She made it clear to me that being a nurse is what would make her happy; something about nurses’ uniform made her happy.
Reluctantly, I agreed to do it for her but on condition that I’d do Community Health Nursing rather. I can imagine your surprise!
To cut a long story short, I passed the Entrance Examination and topped the list of applicants by God’s grace. The Principal at the Community Health Nursing Training School refused to pick me against all the tears I shed that day. She emphatically said even if I cried blood, she wasn’t going to pick me and as a matter of fact, my documents had been forwarded to Cape Coast NMTC so I should expect to be called for an Interview there. This is how I ended up being a Professional Nurse!!
Being A Nurse During COVID
I have gained some nursing experience and equally treated my patients with utmost understanding and empathy. This story is known to all Student Nurses I’ve mentored; because unlike me, it’s a dream come true for them to be nurses since childhood; and so, if the opportunity has been given to them, they should ‘do much better’.
Doing better means in times of epidemic, health workers or front-line workers give our ‘all’; and by giving our all, we are exposed to hazards that put us at risk of infection with an outbreak (COVID-19 in this case). Some of these include long-operational hours, pathogen exposure, occupational burnout, psychological pain, fatigue, and sometimes stigma.
Ghana’s COVID-19 case count as at Friday, July 17, 2020 is 26,125 with 139 deaths. This surge gives us (nurses and other front-line workers) occupational burnout.
Related: Bring Back Our Hand Sanitizers
What the law says
To combat COVID-19, Ghana’s Parliament in March 2020 enacted the Imposition of Restrictions Act, 2020 (Act 1012). Section 2 of this law empowers the President to issue Executive Instruments (EI) to restrict some freedoms under Article 21 of the Constitution.
EI 164 makes it mandatory for everybody to wear a face mask in a public place. With the EI in place, failure to wear face masks constitutes an offence and punishable under Section 10 of Act 1012.
Section 6 of Act 1012 stipulates that “A person who fails to comply with a restriction imposed under the Executive Instrument issued under (the Act) commits an offence and is liable on summary conviction to a fine of not less than one thousand penalty units and not more than five thousand or to a term of imprisonment of not less than four years and not more than ten years or both.”
The weightier matters
Globally, COVID-19 has proved itself to be bigger than anything we all imagined. Ghana’s frontline staff in the COVID-19 fight are depleting at an alarming rate. As at July 16, 2020 at least 2,065 health workers had tested positive for coronavirus. Out of the figure, 1,870 have recovered, and six (6) dead. This means our doctors, nurses and midwives, hospital pharmacists and other health workers are not out of the woods yet.
As a nurse, processing the death of colleague practitioners brings me grief, fear and sometimes frustration at the ‘system’. Nowadays, reporting for duty is a gamble as no one knows who will be infected next or not. Thisis the daily reckoning my colleagues and I endure.
The deeper conversation globally is that there is a growing sense of powerlessness. It’s not even funny.
What we, nurses, go through
I’ve been diligent with my choice of profession because I came to realise there’s a lot more satisfaction in seeing a helpless patient becoming very active after been taken care of; so, I purposed in my heart to give my best to my patients over the years.
There have been countless occasions I had finished my 8-hour shift and was leaving only to called back.
“We’re short-handed at the moment. Can you do a double?” my Director would ask.
Agreeing (I don’t have much of a choice) means all appointments with spouse, children, relatives and friends have to be cancelled. Many of my colleagues can relate. That sacrifice, for me, is one of the reasons nursing is the most consecrated profession.
I am reiterating because I’ve noticed how the citizenry has not taken the COVID-19 scare seriously; some even think it’s a hoax.
Let’s all comply with the Directive to save our own lives, loved ones; spare our Motherland of the ravaging catastrophe. Wash your hands, wear a mask and keep social distance. Avoid crowds-stay safe. Your family needs you.
Let’s treat medical staff who help us when we’re at our lowest with kindness and respect irrespective of our past experiences with them; at the end of the day, a lot of sacrifices (especially during this Covid-19 era) are made just to see a smile on our patients’ faces.
When next you think of not wearing your nose mask, think about the over 2,065 health workers had tested positive for coronavirus.
By the way, did you know that nurses walk an average of four to five miles in every shift? Multiple that figure by two for those who do double shifts.
Related: Covid-19: A Call From A Village Boy