An image of Sarah in full PPE gearI’m a girl guide what’s your superpower. 

Like everyone, my life has changed dramatically since the pandemic began. Maybe more so than others because I’m a nurse. Usually I work in a small medical high-dependency unit in the Mater Misericordiae hospital. Our main speciality is respiratory medicine but we looked after a whole host of patients with different illnesses.

Since the middle of March my job is almost unrecognisable from what it was. Now I only look after sick covid-19 patients who require breathing support or high levels of oxygen. I spend most of my day in full PPE (personal protective equipment) which is definitely the most difficult part.

Working in PPE is like being fully clothed in a sauna and trying to do a work out for hours on end. I’ve had to take on new skills and knowledge in a short period of time and I also educate other nurses who don’t normally work in the respiratory part of the hospital.  

My guiding experience has helped me along the way. I often think of the guiding motto, “Bí ullamh” (be prepared) before I enter into a patients room. It’s important that we have everything we’ll need for the duration of being in the patients room so that we don’t have to come out and waste the PPE, so I always have to think ahead. One unusual skill I’ve gained is being able to write in backwards in mirror form. We communicate with doctors and nurses outside the rooms by writing in dry erase markers on the windows because lip reading is impossible when everyone is in masks. It’s something I picked up very quickly but I’m not sure how much it’ll stand to me when things are back to normal!

Being in constant close contact with covid-19 is a bit frightening at times. Many of my colleagues have tested positive and I’ve been swabbed twice myself (both negative!). We’re at a huge risk of contracting it. As a result I have to be really careful with my PPE and hygiene and I stay away from any of my vulnerable family, like my grandparents. It’s really sad and difficult for me not seeing them for so long but I know I have to stay away to protect them. 

A patients hand with a drip inserted in itSomething that’s difficult is that I’m caring for more patients at the end of their life than I usually would. Making the end of someone’s life comfortable and peaceful is a privilege for us nurses, we help to support and comfort families and loved ones and we organize spiritual care if it’s wanted. But losing patients more often definitely weighs on you. Luckily I have great support from my family, my partner, my colleagues and my friends (including my guiding friends) and I try to do nice enjoyable things (outdoors where possible) on my days off to take my mind off work. I’m looking forward to this all being over and having things to be excited for again.

I’m not sure I’d class myself as a hero. This job definitely isn’t for everyone but at the end of the day it’s just that, a job. We get up and get stuck in and work together to do the best job we can. We’re all one huge team here at the hospital and in the wider community. My advice to people would be to stay at home and follow the official government advice. Try to keep busy and if you feel your mental health is struggling, don’t be afraid to reach out to someone. I think most people can sympathise with each other and find they’re not alone. 

Sarah Curran