Mildura’s nurses on the frontline

LOCAL nurses and midwives on the frontline against the threat of COVID-19 remain unshaken in their commitment to caring for our community.

As people across the world marked International Nurses Day on May 12 and International Day of the Midwife on May 5, three nurses and a midwife from Mildura Base Hospital took a moment to reflect on their professions and the myriad of ways COVID-19 has affected them.

Jessica Cornish – nurse in the COVID-19 ward

JESSICA faces the threat of COVID-19 every shift she does at Mildura Base Hospital – she looks it squarely in the eye and doesn't look away. Every shift she cares for people who could be infected with the deadly virus and every shift she wears a face shield and the full complement of personal protective equipment (PPE).

"We've gone from a sub-acute to an acute ward and our whole team has changed, but I wanted to stay and help look after people in their time of need," she said.

"You get to learn something different every day and I have learnt so much in recent weeks."

Jessica said her colleagues in the COVID-19 ward have supported each other through the pandemic response, while always remaining compassionate and caring for their patients.

"There can only be one nurse in a patient's room, so you have to be really organised and have everything you need to care for them; you have to rely on your shift partner to write down your observations, and they have to help you communicate, which can be quite difficult under layers of PPE," she said.

"It can be daunting, and not just for us (nurses), but for our patients – they are often quite scared, so we really have got to be there and support them."

Nicole Hood, nurse in the Intensive Care Unit

AN Intensive Care nurse for four of her five years in nursing, Nicole is no stranger to critical illness, stress and pressure. But she admits, COVID-19 has dramatically changed her working environment.

"You have to be hyper-aware of COVID-19 and you have to treat every patient as if they have the virus, until we know they don't," she said.

"As a nurse in Intensive Care, you are really privileged to be a part of your patient's life. Pre-COVID-19, we cared for our patients on a more one-to-one basis where, as a nurse, you had to know everything about them and keep them alive, but now, during the pandemic response, the care we give patients is more team-based.

"COVID-19 and the way we have had to change and adapt the way we nurse, has made me appreciate the people I work with even more than normal – everyone is just working so hard and are so committed to protecting each other."

Chris Patten, midwife in the maternity ward

THE pandemic has seen the maternity ward relocate to allow more room for the COVID-19 ward, while a birthing suite and antenatal area have also been set up as a precautionary measure in case a pregnant woman with a suspected case of COVID-19 needs care. These physical changes have brought with them their own challenges, but Chris Patten said nurses and midwives have been well supported.

"COVID-19 has been distressing to some mums because it means they are now only allowed to have one person with them in the birthing suite, which might mean they can have their partner but not their mother, sister or doula," explained Chris, who has lost count of the number of babies she has birthed in her 40 years as a midwife."There's limits on visitors, which can be upsetting for families; and the travel restrictions can mean families may not have the support of a grandparent or friend at home to look after their other children while they settle in with their newborn.

"We get updates every day, if you have questions they are answered, and everyone really communicates well and helps each other stay up to date with the changes."

While there have certainly been changes, Chris said the pandemic response had also produced a lot of positive experiences.

"We've seen new babies meeting their brothers and sisters for the first time through the window, children holding up signs and messages for their mum to see through the glass, and new mums having time to bond with their babies because visits are limited," she said.

Romy Matheson, nurse in the Emergency Department

IN the Emergency Department, one corridor is now isolated to treat patients who have COVID-19 symptoms, with all staff required to wear full PPE.

Romy Matheson described the situation as "really so different to what we are used to", but had nothing but praise for her colleagues, who have supported each other through the challenges of the COVID-19 response.

"We've had to adapt to a different way of working due to COVID-19, everything has changed," Romy said.

"We have a great team and that's one of the things that has kept me here in the Emergency Department for eight years – everyone is really supportive.

"We communicate well and the team works so well together, and through this pandemic, the community has also been really supportive of the work we do – we've had coffees dropped off to us and other really nice gestures that show people appreciate us."