The ‘New Normal’ Nursing

Entering the ninth month of what is deemed as the new normal, has reinforced the reality that COVID-19 has been the highlight of this year. Our lives have changed because of this pandemic. It became the decisive factor in several facets of our living. Lockdown was implemented more than once. For most of us, the year flew by like a blur.

One of the greatly affected sectors is healthcare. As the first few cases were confirmed in the British Isles, changes in rendering patient care were observed. It was a period of much uncertainty and anxiety. It was still a disease that we knew little about. Lots of questions needed answers. Policies changed as quickly as new information was disseminated.

In the neonatal unit, since we look after vulnerable patients, more precautionary measures have been set in place. Safety for everyone has always been a priority. Wearing masks and social distancing became mandatory. We also had to undergo fit testing for FFP masks in case a patient with COVID-19 will be placed in our care. The shift towards this new way of nursing was not easy. Having a mask on for 12 hours is not a comfortable experience and made communication slightly tricky, not to mention for the colleagues who had to don full PPE when caring for query COVID-19 babies. Some colleagues also had to self-isolate or shield. There were days when the supplies had to be carefully utilised.

The nurses, doctors and other healthcare team members were not the only ones who had to go through this trying time. It had been the same for parents as well- or probably even more than we believe. At the start, parents’ visiting hours and days were unfortunately greatly limited. Parent-child bonding is a pillar of neonatal care and the limitations brought about by the pandemic had been heart-breaking. But parents had been understanding and grateful that visiting was still possible in some way.

The doors to 24/7 visits may have temporarily been closed, but thanks to innovative and supportive people, our neonatal unit was provided with the vCreate app. This forward-thinking solution enabled nurses to connect the precious little ones with their parents through photos and videos. This has been a source of joy for many mums and dads, especially for those who do not live locally.

Outside of work, the first few months of lockdown was hard to get to grips with. Even grocery shopping was not as convenient as it used to be. Queues had been massive in some supermarket chains and necessities had been hard to come by. You begin to realise the many things that we had taken for granted. Despite these, it had been comforting to see and feel the public’s support for the NHS. I still remember the Clap for the NHS movement every Thursday evenings.

The virus knows no boundaries and it has affected us personally as well—there was news of colleagues, friends and families who were affected by COVID-19. Even an uncle of mine, unfortunately, succumbed to the disease. The tough part had been dealing with the reality my family is halfway across the world. Getting on a plane to the Philippines to be with and comfort them is no longer straightforward. Communication apps became even more essential- something which I could very much relate to with the babies’ families.
There is a light at the end of the tunnel though. Life has not gone back to ‘pre-COVID’ normality. But we are learning more about the virus and adapting accordingly. For the mums and dads of sick or premature babies, the good news is that they can now visit them any time, although separately.

The pandemic has no set end date, but rays of hope have been seen and hope is something that is very much needed.