Diary of a medical intern (4): ’All nurses were applauding’

21 Apr 2020

Medical students are partaking in the fight against the coronavirus. Medical intern Norah (not her real name) from Nijmegen works in the nursing department of a hospital in Brabant. For Vox, she is keeping a diary. ’The only time I’m afraid to get infected is when families are returning from visiting a patient.’

Wednesday, 15th of April – Infection-anxiety

Recently, I have often been working as the corona ward’s secretary. I’m the first contact and take phone calls for doctors, nurses, families, and other hospitals. And then I weigh whether it is necessary and possible to re-direct the calls. Besides that, I’m also the contact for visiting family members of patients.

Sometimes, family members try to get into the ward – against the rules – with more than two people at the same time. They know the rules, but still try. Often because of distress and concern. Because they want to see their loved ones so very much. I have to disappoint them then. Those are difficult situations, but the rules are in place for good reasons.

The only time I’m afraid to get infected is when families are returning from visiting a patient. Because they are wearing gloves, they are allowed to hold the hand of their loved ones. But they are for example not allowed to hug them. Except no-one is monitoring whether the rules are upheld. And I find that very tricky.

Photo: Tom Hessels

Thursday, 16th of April – Tears of joy

Today, something really special happened. A patient who is approximately 70 years old and had been very sick for a long time, was able to go back home. After 28 days of staying at the ward. When this patient left the hospital, everyone was evidently moved. All nurses were applauding and some of them didn’t even try to hide their tears. This was a really happy and emotional moment.

’I can separate work and private life quite well’

Besides that, it has been an uneventful day. The influx of new patients is steadily declining and we are additionally working with more medicine students at the ward. On the one hand, this comes with some advantages, but it also means that there is less to do. This sometimes leads to boredom, like today. I have been lying down a bit, on a massage bed, and drank an extra mug of soup. That’s nice, now and then, but I’d rather work on.

Friday, 17th of April – Condolence cards

People around me are continuously asking me how I am holding up, out of some kind of concern. Because a lot of things have been washing over me recently and because I’m closely exposed to sickness and death. Luckily, I can say that I’m good. I have noticed that I can separate work and my private life quite well.

Some of my colleagues have a harder time doing that. For example while writing condolence cards for patients who have died. It is good that we as colleagues can be there for each other in those moments.

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