The support of her colleagues and family, the tranquility of nature and spiritual books… these are some of the things that help Senior Staff Nurse Nur Hazlinda Nasrom overcome the fatigue from the long fight against COVID-19.
Hazlinda works at the National Centre for Infectious Diseases (NCID) which is the epicentre of Singapore's battle against the virus. Although Hazlinda is experienced in providing care for patients with infectious diseases, the physical and mental challenge brought about by the pandemic is a test of resilience and adaptability. The 31-year-old explains: "I have been caring for COVID-19 patients since January 2020. There were a lot of adjustments as we put in place protocols and workflows at the start of the outbreak. There were communication barriers with some patients who were from overseas too. Despite the challenges, my colleagues and I worked as a team, motivating one another. We remained resilient knowing that Singapore is depending on us as the frontliners."
Hazlinda and her colleagues at work.
"During this long-drawn battle with COVID-19 and with the surge in cases currently, we may feel exhaustion and fatigue. My colleagues and I are mindful to look out for one another so that we can all pull through the challenging period together."
Before COVID-19 arrived on our shores, Hazlinda was working in an isolation ward in NCID, looking after patients with infectious diseases such as tuberculosis, dengue, Human Immunodeficiency Virus and suspected MERS-CoV. During the pandemic, she served in an NCID outbreak ward, providing holistic bedside care to suspect and confirmed COVID-19 patients. Hazlinda is currently deployed to the Screening Centre at NCID and continues to attend to symptomatic patients. She feels that experience in dealing with infectious disease cases and having peacetime training prepared her for the pandemic as she considers herself "well versed with infection control practices".
Hazlinda has remained steadfast in her role but she is human too and as susceptible to physical and mental overload as the rest of us.
"First and foremost, it is important to recognise burnout in yourself because you know yourself best. When I was feeling burnout previously, I reached out to some individuals and opened up about how I felt. After that, I gave myself a timeline to get better while keeping myself occupied. A few of my therapeutic activities include healing in the tranquility of nature or picking up some spiritual books for a good read," adds Hazlinda.
"Being one of the first frontliners to come face to face with this pandemic, it was natural to feel overwhelmed. It helps to talk to fellow nurses because they understand the nature of the job. The infection curve has fluctuated throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. As the pandemic continues, it is unavoidable that exhaustion gradually sets in and especially at this time as we see the surge of patients and increase in workload and responsibility, while managing changing manpower demands. However much the challenges were, I chose to be undaunted and keep pressing on."
She also credits her family for being there for her through this trying phase: "I'm thankful for my family which has always been my backbone of support. My mother in particular is my listener and her words of motivation kept me going. Although she is not a nurse, she is able to relate to my work and has always been my most trusted supporter for the last decade ever since I joined nursing. Apart from that, having a strong religious faith keeps me grounded."
As we celebrate World Mental Health Day in October, here's some advice from Hazlinda: "Mental health tends to be overlooked but it is an important part of self-care. Educate yourself and do seek professional help or talk to someone if you are battling anxiety, depression or any mental illness. Remember to eat well, keep fit and take a break if you are tired but never give up. Surround yourself with people that spread positivity. Love yourself a little more than yesterday."