Heroes in the pandemic

Submitted by Chilean Nurses Association
April 29, 2020


“Don’t just applaud the health staff: take action and avoid going out

WWW.PUBLIMETRO.CL  27/04/2020, P. 06. By Catalina Batarce C.

Vocation: After working  in Magallanes, Camila Romero (25 years old) works as a nurse in the Emergency Hospital Asistencia Publica in Santiago, since April 2nd.

Crisis: She says that she sees fear and insecurity in the patients since they take the test and that the biggest effort is to try to “contain” them.

Unlike those people who dream since childhood of the career they want to have, Camila Romero (25 years old) was hesitant about nursing. She knew that she liked the health area, but she was not one of those girls who “cared” to her toys as if they were her patients. And the indecision remained during her first years at the Andres Bello University in Santiago, Chile. The first three years went on forever, but when she arrived at El Pino Hospital in Santiago (a Public hospital)  to do her internship she “saw the light”. That is, “when she saw my teacher in the ICU and got to know the critical care unit, I said this is what I want to do”.  From then on, after graduating, came a series of qualifications and courses and her first job at the Hospital Clinico in Punta Arenas. That’s how far she got with her husband, who was transferred to the area” and she adds, “but my thing was not to stay as a traditional nurse-patient, I wanted to help in the diagnosis and to increase the knowledge to later guide those who assisted“, she adds. This year she returned to Santiago and taking advantage of some contacts, she went to work at the Public Assistance Emergency Hospital, formerly the Central Post, in Santiago. It was April 2, just when the COVID-19 infection curve began to rise.  She is currently studying for a degree in critical care nursing at the University of the Andes, and when asked why she would prefer public service, she says that “there are many stigmas about working in public service, but it serves a lot of personal growth and development. Here you apply all your abilities and that gives you a different kind of temperament.” And she adds that his main objective is to provide quality care.

  1. How has the day-to-day life been in this emergency unit?

We work with two different flows, one specialized to investigate possible cases of COVID-19, patients who are not serious and another, for patients who require life support and are in critical condition. These patients may or may not have COVID-19. In addition, a special corridor was set up for severe patients suspected of COVID-19.

  1. Has this meant changes in workload?

So far we have no overload, if it’s a wear and tear, because you have to be very meticulous, especially with the protective measures. The situation is still sustainable, there are staff, with 1 x 3 shifts. We work 24 hours in a row and rest three days, -this is to protect the staff-

  1. How is the contact with the patients?

From the moment one takes the test there is fear and insecurity. But what is most repeated is that more than that, it is because of your family.  We do not handle the results as it is private and the only thing you try to do is to contain them. One sees them anxious.

  1. Outside of work, how has your routine changed?

Besides always occupying the masks, we clean all the things we buy. In the appartment I have a dirty area, where we take off all our clothes to go directly to the bathroom. And my relatives, my grandmother, I haven’t seen them since this started, and I’ll see them until it’s over. The most important thing is to set an example, and not encourage people to get together, even though I have friends in the same building.

  1. What call do you make to people?

I have been very impressed by the applause in the first row of the health room at 9 pm, it means  -recognition- , but I feel that it is a call for attention. Thi is a job that we do every day and only now there is a recognition. This emphasizes the deficiencies that we have, we do not value public service! Do not just applaud the professionals but take action, and avoid going out. Let us be aware.

  1. Finally, what can you say coming from a hospital in Punta Arenas to Santiago: what is the difference?

the change is noticeable. I spent the first weeks of the crisis in that hospital in Punta Arenas and the reality there is completely different. There was really a mistaken feeling. They did what they could with what they had, but there were no staff and the tests took up to 8 days. And in the meantime, patients were waiting for the results. They went on with their lives. They went to the supermarket and didn’t take any further action, it was very complicated. (Note: Punta Arenas, is in the extreme south of Chile, and is the third city with the highest number of infected cases, 4.86 % of total cases 27/04/2020 report of MINSAL,  www.minsal.cl).

Here in Santiago, you realize that things work out. Although some things have been decided on the fly, there are inputs, capacity and facilities in place. There are plenty of staff available, people you know are qualified, and tests take a maximum of 24 hours.

-Translate and adapted by Dr. Eugenia Urra M. from Chilean Nurses Association