Nati, 23, has been a nurse for almost two years. He followed the first and second waves in his native Spain and since December he has been working at a hospital specializing in the elderly in the UK.
Pressure from the most contagious variant, which caused the third wave in the country, has turned the hospital into a ‘blue wing’, which mainly accommodates patients with Covid-19.
Between her 1pm shifts – with two half-hour breaks – she recounted how the situation had reached the brink of intolerability and, since last week, has started showing signs of improvement.
“Since December, I have been working in a large hospital, a reference in a small town in the southwest of England. He specializes in caring for the elderly, but the contagion has increased so much that at the end of November he became a “blue wing”: an institution to treat Covid-19. The youngest patient we received was 21 years old and the older, 97 years old.
I had already experienced the chaos of the first waves in Spain, but this third is the worst. The last month and a half seems to have been forever.
My life is limited to work. I wake up at 6 a.m., go in at 7.15 a.m. and finish at 8.15 p.m., three to four times a week. But I never completely disconnect, the worry continues somewhere in my head.
When people came out to the window to applaud, we were motivated at first. Then we saw that it was useless. What really mattered was that people stay home, avoid contact and do the opposite. It was very hypocritical.
Under normal conditions, each nurse takes care of six patients, but there are days when we serve 12. As a geriatric hospital, we take care of many elderly people who need assistance all the time, someone nearby to eat, drink water, and do whatever it takes.
It is difficult, because many suffer from dementia and do not understand that they have to wear masks, avoid all contact. They just get out of bed and get out. Due to the lack of staff, we were not able to give the necessary attention.
This week he had to take a patient’s vital signs and refused to put on the mask. He said he couldn’t breathe. What can I do? I can’t force him to use it.
Psychologically, this is one of the biggest challenges. Empathize with angry, scared, anxious, angry people. In their situation I would be too, and it is difficult to reassure them and show that we are doing everything possible.
They are isolated and cannot receive any visitors. It is very sad, because they are totally alone, even in my hospital, which does not receive the most serious cases. At least when a person was terminally ill, families could visit them.
The third week of January was the worst, and we are very, very, very, very, very, very bad … [pausa]
There are people who cannot bear this workload and simply give up their job. We can’t find substitutes, our workload increases, and there are times when we don’t know which data is coming from whom. And physically, it’s very exhausting to spend 12, 13 hours with the safety equipment.
Today was a day when I just wanted to lock myself in the bathroom and cry. There was no way out, as I had to change all the clothes and then wear another uniform. I thought, “I’ve been doing this for less than two years and I’m exhausted; imagine those who have been here for 40 years ”. But I won’t surrender. I wouldn’t dare and I don’t want to quit my job. This is what I want to do.
Fortunately, last week I was able to get the vaccine and things started to improve here in town. My hospital and the neighbor will become “green wing” again. Hope everyone gets vaccinated quickly, we need to get herd immunity and get this pandemic under control soon. “