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Delhi: Long hours, loss of colleagues, nurses say current surge taking mental toll

As the world marked International Nurses Day, Jeemol Shaji (66), a senior nursing officer in Lok Nayak Hospital, said that while her shift begins at 9 am, she reaches by 6 am to supervise and monitor the staff.

Written by Amil Bhatnagar | New Delhi |
Updated: May 12, 2021 10:09:47 pm
The nurses also have to ensure the risk to their families is minimised. (Express Photo)

From being unable to meet family members to working overtime, nurses in the capital say the current Covid surge has been particularly gruelling.

As the world marked International Nurses Day, Jeemol Shaji (66), a senior nursing officer in Lok Nayak Hospital, said that while her shift begins at 9 am, she reaches by 6 am to supervise and monitor the staff. Shaji had leaves sanctioned in March as she wanted to take care of her husband following a surgery. But as the second wave began, she cancelled her leaves.

“Since then, I have been taking care of Covid patients at the hospital and my husband at home. It is a difficult time, but I take precautions at home as much as I can,” said Shaji, who hails from Kerala. “I was supposed to get vaccinated, but that was delayed. I plan to get vaccinated in the coming weeks.”

Arokee (28) hails from Himachal Pradesh and is a nurse at Greater Noida’s Sharda Hospital. For the safety of her family’s safety, she has not visited home since August last year. “We have duties in three shifts. The hospital has given us a hostel where we stay. The hours are long and there is work, but we have a duty to perform. I met my family last year, and I have not met them since. Whenever I miss them, I talk to them on the phone, but nothing beyond that,” she said.

Shalini Nair (26), another nurse fron Sharda Hospital, has been trying to deal with the news of a friend’s death. “My friend was a nurse at a private hospital in Delhi. She died when she was eight months pregnant. I do not have words to describe what I feeling. I only imagine the life she was supposed to live. This is something all healthcare workers have been facing and psychologically, it is almost impossible to deal with these things. My son tested positive, and I had to live away from him. This (Covid-19) is the worst, and I appeal to people to take it seriously. It is ruining lives,” said Shalini, who is fully vaccinated.

A nurse at a Delhi government hospital spoke about the challenges almost all in the fraternity face: “We are short-staffed. We have lost some very good nurses to Covid recently. The patients also suffer as only a few of us have to manage.”

For 34-year-old Dhan Singh, a nurse at Lok Nayak, even finding time to consume a glass of water is a task during the night shift. “There are days when you don’t realise how the night has slipped into morning. The night shift begins from 8 pm, and the patient load is such that you cannot keep track of the hours. But at this point, all that matters is that the patients must be looked after. We are doing our job,” said Singh, who hails from Rajasthan.

The nurses also have to ensure the risk to their families is minimised. “There is no set way to deal with these things, mentally. In my head, I know I have to ensure I maintain a distance from my family during quarantine for everyone’s safety. I have two children aged 11 and six. It is difficult, like it is for everyone else. But this is the way forward,” said Avinash Pareta, a nurse from Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital who has received both doses of the vaccine.

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