'I feel like going on duty is suicidal': nurses share emotional strain of Covid-19

12 May 2020 - 12:23 By Iavan Pijoos
Sylvia Rosseaw has been working as a nurse for the past 37 years, and said she has never experienced the fears and anxiety she is feeling during the pandemic.
Sylvia Rosseaw has been working as a nurse for the past 37 years, and said she has never experienced the fears and anxiety she is feeling during the pandemic.
Image: Supplied

As health workers celebrate International Nurses' Day, the fight to defeat Covid-19 comes with emotional strain and has highlighted how vulnerable SA’s front-line workers really are.

“Covid-19 changed my entire life in the blink of an eye. I've always known we will work with different types of contagious diseases, but not in my wildest dreams have I experienced such fears and anxiety as now,” Sylvia Rosseaw told TimesLIVE on Tuesday.

President Cyril Ramaphosa on Tuesday thanked SA's nurses, saying he was humbled by their bravery. He called on communities to accord nurses gratitude and support.

Rosseaw, known to her friends and family as Silla, has worked as a nurse for the past 37 years.

“Nursing is a calling and it has  been one of my biggest passions to help sick people get better,” the 55-year-old said.

Rosseaw works at the Uitenhage Provincial Hospital in the Eastern Cape.

She said when arriving home after a shift at the hospital, she first has to “decontaminate herself”.  

“I can’t hug or kiss my loved ones and I fear for my friends, family and myself. We are sometimes so tired and then I get emotional and find myself crying. At times I am moody and my family suffers.

“I sometimes wish we can wake up from this 2020 nightmare.”

Rosseaw said she remained hopeful that the country would overcome the pandemic.

“We place our hope in the Lord. My prayer is that every nurse is no discouraged by the Covid-19 pandemic because I believe we can win this battle.”

Rozeldè Louw works at the Manne Dipico Hospital in Colesberg in the Northern Cape. She worries about the safety of her family members.
Rozeldè Louw works at the Manne Dipico Hospital in Colesberg in the Northern Cape. She worries about the safety of her family members.
Image: Supplied

Rozeldè Louw’s biggest fear is contracting the virus while treating a patient.

Louw works at the Manne Dipico Hospital in Colesberg in the Northern Cape.

“To be honest, I am really scared I contract the virus. I also fear having to quarantine at home, where I would put my family at risk of contracting the disease.

“It’s extremely stressful . It feels like we frontline workers have to be extra careful to ensure the safety of our families."

She said they are fearful whenever a colleague is tested for the virus.

“We always fear what the result will be. When it comes back negative you are relieved, but  wonder if the swabs were done correctly and the right procedures were followed.

“Our families are worried because we are in direct contact with patients and spend a lot of time time with them.”

Embre Nelson, who works at the Rosedale Clinic in Uitenhage, has been a healthcare worker for 30 years.

Embre Nelson finds hope in the number of people who recover.
Embre Nelson finds hope in the number of people who recover.
Image: Supplied

“For the first time in my career I feel like going on duty is suicidal. The increasing numbers of Covid-19 cases scares me.

“But I also find hope in the recovery numbers. My biggest dream is that scientists will come up with an effective vaccine soon,” Nelson said.

She said she finds some humour in her husband’s obsession with “disinfecting”.

“I wish you could see how many bottles of disinfectant he has in his car,” she said.

Nelson shared this message: “Happy nurses day to all my colleagues worldwide. To the communities, please stay at home.”

Ramaphosa, in a statement marking International Nurses' Day, said the highly valued contribution of nurses to society has taken on exponential importance in the battle against Covid-19.

“Currently, nurses are placing themselves between our communities and the unseen enemy we face in Covid-19. We are humbled by their bravery, their hard work and their commitment to putting the interests of all South Africans before their own and those of their own families.

“Nurses deserve our appreciation and gratitude and we must offer nurses the protection they need against a range of threats, from viruses to violence.”

He also paid tribute to their work throughout the year.

“Nurses are the frontline of our healthcare system and we appreciate the dedication with which they perform their duties in public and private hospitals and clinics, in schools, mines, pharmacies, in corporate health and wellness programmes, in non-governmental organisations, in faith-based organisations and sports federations, as volunteers in different settings, and as neighbours who don’t mind being woken  in the middle of the night when we need help.

“They provide comfort and counsel to the vulnerable and they are at our side from birth to the instant of death.

“More broadly, nurses are community-builders, mentors, counsellors and educators who provide psychosocial support, beyond the medical domain, to the communities in which they are based and are at the forefront of our fight against many social ills.”

Nurse Algenita Lottering said it was an “honour” to be part of the frontline workers fighting the pandemic in the country.

“Every day we have fears about being at work and being in contact with so many different patients.

“This pandemic is new to all of us. No one has the right or wrong answers regarding this. It’s scary, I won’t deny it, but going out there knowing you're coming to work to help save lives makes it all worth it in the end.”

Lottering said delivering babies in theatre always brought “new hope” when sharing the special moment with mothers.

“It’s absolutely beautiful. It literally brings tears to my eyes. Nursing in general is such a beautiful career. Sometimes we to have hide our emotions and be strong for the patient.

“Your family needs to deal with the fact that you're at work 80% of the time, working extra-long hours and coming home tired. But the support they give is amazing because they know this is my passion, helping others.”


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