- Sophia Petiza
- BBC – World Service
The nursing profession had a fundamental role in fighting the Covid 19 epidemic around the world, but workers in this profession were, at the same time, the most affected in the epidemic crisis, on the physical and psychological levels.
On the occasion of World Nursing Day, the BBC spoke with a number of health care workers in Italy who have dealt with the epidemic since the beginning of its outbreak last year, about how they were able to find solutions that helped them cope with the pressure of the epidemic and the effects of the trauma they experienced during the crisis of its outbreak.
“We carry In our memories and our depths All we’ve seen
“I never imagined that I would ever get my life back,” says Paulo Miranda, a nurse in Cremona’s intensive care unit who decided last year to document the tragic situation in his unit by taking pictures.
The pictures, taken by the nurse, showed how his colleagues dealt with the first wave of the virus outbreak in the country – as the epidemic became more like a “new normal” that people got used to and stopped glorifying them as heroes.
He told the BBC at the time: “I don’t want to forget what happened to us, and history will remember it soon.”
He added, “Although the level of the emergency has gradually decreased, we feel surrounded by a gloomy darkness … It is as if we are full of wounds; we carry everything we saw in our depths.”
And the biggest change that happened to Paolo since then is that he became a father.
“We called our daughter Vittoria, which means victory. Bringing a new spirit to this life in a catastrophic situation like this gave us a lot of hope.”
Paolo, who suffers from PTSD from the events of the past year, adds that many of his colleagues too have decided to have children in defiance of all the suffering and deaths they have had to endure.
“My daughter helps me a lot in coping with fatigue. When I go home and look at her, she replies with a smile.”
“lhave It was Victory For me”
In February 2020, Italy became the epicenter of the global pandemic and an example of what happens when the healthcare system collapses in one of the wealthiest parts of the world.
At the time, Martina Benedetti, a nurse in the intensive care department in Tuscany, told the BBC that she was not sure she wanted to be a nurse anymore.
She has since changed her position, describing her job as “cool,” but cautions that it may not suit everyone. “I feel like I was 10 years old. I used to be free of mind and indifferent. But that character is gone now.”
The writing helped her cope. After her long shift in the hospital, upon returning home and before going to sleep, she was writing down her feelings, and now hoping to turn what she had written down into an electronic book.
Martina says it has been particularly difficult to deal with patients in denial of Covid-19 – some of them ended up in the intensive care unit where she worked.
“I had to treat people who were inciting others through social media not to wear masks and call the nurses liars.”
However, Martina says she has managed to change their mind sometimes.
And she adds: “After one of the people who denied having a Covid disease was discharged from the hospital, he wrote on his Facebook page that the exact opposite of what he thought was. That was for me a victory.”
“I discovered a power I didn’t know I possessed”
A study conducted by the “EngageMinds HUB” research center on nurses in Italy, found that those who interacted with their patients showed lower levels of PTSD and fatigue.
Dr Serena Borrello, co-author of the study, says: “Patients and their relatives are often seen as a burden that slows the response to emergencies. But taking time to explain things to them and share responsibilities with their joys and sorrows means adding another human resource to your team, and that will make it happen. To facilitate the task in the end. “
The study also found that 90 percent of the study participants had never considered leaving their jobs or requesting a transfer during the outbreak, but rather a great sense of pride, a feeling echoed by Elisa Nanino, the nursing home doctor.
“The epidemic has shown me that I am in the right job,” says Nanino. “I discovered a strength in me that I didn’t know I possessed. I saw people die and cried for them, but I saved other lives too, it’s invaluable.”
Elisa says that when she was coming home from work and unable to relax, cooking was helping her get through it, she would prepare loads of tiramisu and take it with her to share with her colleagues in the hospital.
And the biggest advice she gives to healthcare workers is not to feel guilty about those who couldn’t save their lives.
“Simply, it is impossible to save all the patients who come to us during a pandemic. All you can do is do your best, but do not come home in pain because of it.”
For Martina, it was difficult to talk to friends and family because they did not understand exactly what she was going through. She said it was her colleagues who helped her keep going.
“The best advice I give to nurses / patients who are dealing with a critical crisis is to work together as a team,” she says.
“When you collapse, trying to hide it is just a waste of time. You will not get any benefit on your own; talk to your colleagues, they may be going through the same circumstance as well.”
“Peace of mind”
Dr. Barrello is concerned that doctors and nurses will suffer from PTSD as a result of the epidemic, which may have effects on a person months or even years later.
“Ultimately, when you have time to think about what happened, and society moves on its way out of the crisis, everything may collapse and you feel more exhausted and emotional (in PTSD symptoms).”
She says hospitals should take the initiative and provide employees with the psychological support they need and push them to take care of themselves, including encouraging them to return to their private lives that have completely disappeared over the past year and a half.
This could include resuming hobbies that they abandoned during the crisis, spending time with family, and playing sports, especially outdoors.
And Martina, she intends to do just that. “I plan a trip in the mountains with my husband, somewhere secluded in the midst of nature, where I can finally have peace of mind again,” she says.