Joann Koh, Senior Staff Nurse, SingHealth Polyclinics
Deeply honoured! That was how I felt when asked to fight COVID-19 on the front line.
Being deployed to a medical post in a dormitory does not faze me. As a swabber, I have full confidence in the infection control measures put in place, such as safe distancing and the donning of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) while on duty. My only concern was having to step out of my comfort zone and into an unfamiliar environment. I have spent my entire nursing career in the healthcare setting and this was the first time I worked at a dormitory.
However, my concerns were unfounded. I have wonderful and enthusiastic colleagues, who created great team spirit. Our management team has also been very supportive and has frequently visited us on-site to provide moral support. Due to the encouraging atmosphere at work, I actually look forward to my scheduled days at the dormitory!
Nevertheless, we encounter difficulties working at the dormitory. Wearing full PPE under the hot sun is no small feat. I am often drenched in my own perspiration by the end of my shift. To prevent myself from falling ill, I try my best to keep cool under the tents and hydrate frequently. The prolonged use of goggles has also caused pressure sores on my nose bridge and cheeks, as well as my skin to break out. Despite these physical and mental challenges, I do my best to suppress my discomfort and focus on the medical and physiological needs of the migrant workers. The silver lining from my experience is that I am now more resourceful in seeking out prompt solutions to overcome any problems that arise.
During the early stages of the COVID-19 outbreak, one of my colleagues was shunned by other passengers while she was travelling on the train in her uniform. They did not want to stand or sit near her, and this affected me greatly. Thankfully, after discrimination against healthcare workers was reported on social media and in the news, more members of the public stood up to encourage and support us. This really boosted our morale and kept us going.
During this difficult period, many patients have shown their appreciation by thanking us and acknowledging the work we do. The ability to share healthcare knowledge with my patients and the empowerment to help someone in need are the forces that drive me to work every day.