International Nurses Day: A tribute to nurses at forefront of fight against Covid-19

Like doctors and other health care workers, nurses are at the forefront of fighting the Covid-19 pandemic, putting own life at risk as the second wave of the pandemic continues to take its toll across the country. The International Nurses Day is being marked throughout the world, including in Nepal, today around the theme – Nurses: A Voice to Lead-A Vision for Future Healthcare. As the world marks the Day, the nurses clad in PPEs here are busy caring for the Covid-19 patients who are struggling for survival. They are working long shifts remaining within PPEs without aeration even during the hot summer days of the Tarai. The hospitals in the district are full of Covid-19 patients and many hospitals are treating patients keeping them on the passage and open spaces for lack of beds. In this situation, the nurses are compelled to work 24 hours without caring for the summer heat or their own inconvenience. They have double the work load in the present circumstances as compared to the work load during normal times. Around 2,000 nurses are at work like this here in Chitwan district. Sarita Bhandari, a nurse at Bharatpur Hospital since long time back, says she hardly finds time to take a respite from work these days due to the sheer number of Covid-19 patients at the hospital. Bhandari is the Nursing Chief at the Covid Ward run by the Hospital. “There are only 30 nurses at the Ward to look after 145 patients for 24 hours. We are observing the Nurses Day today as part of our regular work – taking care of the patients,” she said. According to her, the nurses on duty at the Ward are so overwhelmed with work that they even do not get time to drink water. “It is summer time. We have to work from six to seven hours continuously wearing the PPEs. It is hot and stuffy.” However, she said, their distress disappears once they see the agony of the patients. Nurses are served food and snacks before they are sent to the Ward for taking up their duty, Bhandari added. Prashamsa Sharma, working at BP Koirala Memorial Cancer Hospital, said that she is very happy to look after the Covid-19 infected people. Though it was somewhat difficult in the beginning, now it has become normal, she shared her experience. Now, deputed at the hospital’s quarantine section, Sharma said, “She did not feel tired even after working for 12 hours a day.” Sharma shared although they could not take out their PPE and even could not eat anything- even water – while at work, they involved in treatment of Covid-infected people thinking its their humanity. “We feel so happy when corona virus patients return home after recovery,” she opined. Similarly, Secretary of Nepal Nursing Association, Chitwan, Bishnu Maya Adhikari, said that nurses across the nation are devoted in service putting their lives at risk. She complained that general people, government and administrators are not seen positives towards nurses. Adhikari added that nurses have not been able to get required safety equipment, salary on time, salary determined by the government. Nurses involve in 90 per cent treatment of the patients till discharge of patients, she said. District Chairperson of the Association, Mathura Sapkota, said that there are no sufficient nurses in hospitals so they have been compelled to lots of works which is against government’s policy. Nurses are currently professionally obliged to spend up to 14 hours in a day to care for infected. “They too have tested positive for coronavirus infection but are not shying away from their medical duties. Over 400 nurses in the district have been infected, nurses are serving others putting own life at risk, but the government and hospital proprietors have overlooked their issues,’’ he said. According to the Guideline for Health Institution Establishment, Operation and Upgrade Standard 2073 BS (amendment), there shall be at least one doctor, one anesthetic, one in-charge, one surgery assistant and one nurse for each bed in a surgery ward while the guideline requires a staff nurse for four to six beds in the general ward. Likewise, there shall be one staff nurse for each two beds in the emergency and post-operative wards, one nurse for each bed in the ICU, NICU and the CCU and two SBA( skilled birth attendant)-trained nurses or midwiferies for each bed in the labour ward. Bharatpur Hospital Development Committee chair Dr Bhojraj Adhikari said the role and contribution of nurses in dealing with Covid-19 cases was commendable. A patient can lose life if the oxygen supply gets disrupted for two minutes and such all crucial arrangements are made by nurse. As he said, nurses have 90 percent contribution in the treatment of patient. Besides, their role is more crucial in the treatment of Covid-19 patients as they require oxygen therapy and other medical care to manage the situation when no specific medication has been recommended for them. The International Nurses Day which is celebrated May 12 each year to honour nurses commemorates the birth anniversary of Florence Nightingale, the founder of modern nursing. The history of the beginning of nursing service in the country dates to 2013 BS and Nepal observes the National Nursing Day on Magh 25 in the Nepali calendar each year.

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