Stuffy PPE & Long Work Hours Take A Toll On Nurses, ST Reporter Shares Struggles

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Nurses Fight On Despite Exhaustion From Working Long Hours In PPE, Claims ST Reporter Who Was On Site

We’ve applauded our doctors and nurses several times throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, but how much do we really know about their struggles?

The Straits Times (ST) reporter Neo Xiaobin who visited frontline nurses for a report offered a closer look into their predicament, from donning the Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), to scrambling for time with family.

None of what they do appears easy at all, and the pictures paint a thousand words.

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You can read Neo’s full post here, but we’ll summarise the gist of it for you.

Putting on & removing PPE an arduous task for nurses

After a visit to Ng Teng Fong General Hospital (NTFGH), Neo and her colleague, photographer Kevin Lim, gathered more than just quality photos of their experience.

Going through the safety procedures before entering the wards allowed them a unique look into just what nurses have to go through on a regular basis.

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Neo shared her thoughts in a long Facebook post yesterday (6 May).

While the knowledge that the PPE is disposable is common, not many know just how many times nurses have to change them.

According to Neo, she and Kevin had to do so “several times”, in specific zones for removal and donning of “dirty” and “clean” PPEs.

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And that’s only within the short span that they conducted their interviews. Imagine how much of that the nurses who work long shifts, for a few days in a week, have to go through.

Wearing equipment for long hours uncomfortable & painful

As if the process isn’t arduous enough, the discomfort of wearing the PPE while working makes it many times worse.

The equipment leave marks all over their faces, the deepest of which comes from goggles which have to be skin-tight to prevent exposure.

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The pain isn’t just on the surface — Neo describes the full extent in detail:

But the pressure on your cheekbones and nose bridge hurts. You get headaches. The healthcare workers on the frontline deal with that day in, day out.

On top of the aches, the gowns they have on are also stuffy, leaving them soaking wet despite working in air-conditioned wards. Imagine how much hotter healthcare workers in the dormitories must feel.

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Neo even raises the plight of healthcare workers who have to endure all that while fasting, since they’re observing the month of Ramadan now.

Exhaustion not only physical but also mental

Going through the physical exertions while keeping their composure when dealing with patients can take a toll on the workers’ mental well-being.

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Neo quoted an interaction she had with a nurse who always calls home before heading there, to ensure that her children are in their rooms so they won’t cross paths.

This, despite the fact that she has already showered in the hospital. She takes another shower the moment she gets home, before spending what little time she has with her 5 kids.

Often, work gets so tiring to the point that she cries when they ask how she’s doing.

Even while bearing all that pain, she encourages Singaporeans to “stay at home and enjoy your circuit breaker time with your family.”

Be kind to everyone as we’re fighting our own battles

Staying home for nearly 2 months may be difficult for some of us, for various reasons, and those are our battles to fight.

For healthcare workers, theirs follows them wherever they go, from work to home.

At the end of the day, the Covid-19 pandemic and its consequences aren’t easy for anyone, so the only way we can help ease each other’s burdens is to be kind.

Neo concludes her post with this moving reminder, and a hope that we can spread positivity to get through this crisis.

Featured image adapted from Facebook.

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