[Stories of hope] This deputy head of nursing from Mumbai believes being positive keeps her going in the COVID ward

Rashmi Sawant, Deputy Head of Nursing, Global Hospital, Mumbai, narrates her experience of working with COVID-19 patients. It’s our job, she reiterates.
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Rashmi Sawant, Deputy Head of Nursing, has been working at Global Hospital in Mumbai for nine years now. With over 17 years of nursing experience, Rashmi is a seasoned professional, but when it came to COVID-19, life and work threw a different curve ball altogether.

When COVID-19 was declared a pandemic in March 2020, health workers and the population alike was stumped by the virus, the type of infection, and the treatment for it.

Mumbai was one of the worst affected cities then.

Rashmi recalls, “As nurses, we experienced both negative and positive emotions, though the former was more dominant. While it was our professional responsibility to look after patients, we were also putting our lives at risk,” she recalls.

Added to this was the fear of infecting their families and loved ones as not much was known about the virus and the right approach to treatment.

“We had no choice to be calm even during worse situations. The stress of eight hours in a COVID ward was high,” she adds.

Rashmi says she made sure that she and the nurses took a monitored bio break and also ate on time. However, the travelling time from her home in Bhandup (a suburb) to Parel where the hospital was, was way more stressful.

What usually took an hour by local train saw Rashmi spending hours waiting at the bus stop for buses. Since local trains had stopped functioning, she had to sometimes wait for more than three hours to catch an overcrowded bus and reach the hospital.

Once at the hospital, it was also important to monitor the mental health of the patients.

“The sad part about the infectious nature of COVID-19 is that families cannot stay with the patients. It was upon us, the nurses, to take care of them, answer their questions, and even arrange video calls so that they could speak to their families. We also had to counsel the families not to stress and keep calm,” she says.

The second wave of COVID-19 by the end of March this year saw cases doubling in Mumbai. But this time, Rashmi says she felt less afraid of the disease.

“We knew we had to fight the battle and win. For that, we had to put in our 100 percent and remain positive. We also received support from the management, the biomedical team, and the purchase team who worked together seamlessly to handle the crisis,” she says.

She admits it’s heart-breaking to lose a patient who’s in the same age group as hers. “It’s sad to see so many young people losing their lives.”

As the deputy head of nursing, her responsibility is also to take care of the nurses who work with her. For this, fresher nurses are tagged with experienced ones in a ‘buddy’ system of both cooperation and support.

“With so many nurses staying in the hostel and with the difficulty in travelling to their hometowns, our job is also to talk to their parents and assure them that their children are safe. We make sure they have their meals on time and also get adequate rest,” she says.

More than hope, Rashmi believes nurses do not have any choice. “I have to be there for my patients, it’s my job, and I cannot turn away from it.”

Edited by Megha Reddy

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