Published: 06th March 2021
Women's Day: What's it like being a nursing student in the wake of a pandemic? We find out from Shakthi Pavitra
Shakthi Pavitra C is a final-year nursing student who worked at a COVID treatment centre in Bengaluru for nearly two months. She shares her experiences at the centre and how she prepared mentally
When the lockdown was announced across the country, most of us who could stayed at home and took good care of ourselves — we ate right, we exercised. We also kept ourselves entertained with OTT platforms and stayed connected with loved ones through video calls. But it was the medical fraternity that put their lives at risk, tracking and treating lakhs of patients who came in contact with the COVID-19 virus. Among the professionals, there were medical and nursing students too who worked round the clock in the interest of the community. Shakthi Pavitra C, a final-year nursing student, is one of those brave COVID warriors who worked for more than a month to care for COVID patients.
Shakthi, who is currently studying BSc Nursing at KIDWAI Institute of Nursing in Bengaluru, recalls her first day at the quarantine centre she was posted at. She says, "When COVID-19 hit India in the month of February–March, it was not mandatory for medical or nursing students to work. Later, when there was a staff shortage we were all asked to step up and monitor COVID-19 patients. I was on COVID duty for almost two months, including September and October, when India's numbers were at its highest. I still remember how nervous I was the previous day when I had to pack my bags and get out of my comfort zone to work on the field. However, my parents encouraged me and said that if I couldn't manage for five days, then I could take the decision to return home. It was just to convince my mind that was full of confusion and fear."
Shakthi, along with her batchmates, was assigned to work at the Koramangala Indoor Stadium that was turned into a temporary quarantine centre. "We were given masks, gloveliked a PPE kits to wear. I thought that I would lose my life wearing that PPE kit. I was sweating profusely, I felt like I would throw up in it. At one point, I only felt liked crying out loudly for choosing to study this course. This was just the first day. But on the second day, I prepared my mind better and knew that I needed to take things easy and see the brighter side of life. I assumed that I was no less than a soldier on a battlefield. I prepared myself consciously that my service is towards people and that I need to survive in this kit to do that," explains Shakthi.
The centre where Shakthi worked consisted of 200 patient beds. From registering new admissions to monitoring them on an hourly basis, she ensured to work in all capacities. She says, "If we are on the duty, we need to ensure that the patient is given nutritious food provided by the government and the necessary medicines. We need to keep a tab on their temperature and other morbidities. Besides this, we had to check if patients needed any particular essentials and even buy those for them."
The most challenging part of COVID duty was drinking water in lesser quantities. Shakthi says, "The water we drank was measured in millilitres even before we could consume it. It was obvious that we were not supposed to use the washroom once we wore the PPE kit. Hence, there was no chance or hydrating ourselves despite sweating constantly. This went on for 15 days and we were sent to quarantine for another 15 days."
So how did she spend her time when in quarantine? She explains, "We had our exams approaching close in December. And we hardly had any notes to study. In these 15 days, we spent time making notes and preparing for our exams. When we got bored doing the same activities, we would talk to our parents and friends over the phone. That was the best way to get rid of loneliness."
That was not the end of their duty. After a period of 15 days, they were assigned to do the same duty at the BIEC centre that had over 10,000 beds. "Now it was the old practice of wearing a PPE kit and monitoring patients on a regular basis. Only the experiences with patients were a bit different. There were people who were calm and composed to accept whatever facilities were given. But there were also patients who fought for every little thing," explains Shakthi adding, "We worked at the BIEC quarantine centre for 15 days and were quarantined before we allowed to go back home finally."