As the world marks International Nurses Day on 12th May, nurses here who tirelessly provide care for patients are being honoured.
Nurses are Heroes Behind the Masks too!
Treatment of those affected by COVID-19 continues to be a top priority for all healthcare professionals across the globe. However, one significant group of healthcare workers have remained unsung in these challenging circumstances: nursing and home carers.
Nurses are the largest occupational category in the medical sector, but their importance is rarely acknowledged.
Varnam Malaysia in conjunction with this year’s International Nurses Day took the opportunity to interview PC Gan, Country Manager and Nisha Andrea Raj, Care Specialist of Homage Malaysia on a series of questions, in line with their duties.
Homage, fondly known as an award-winning personal care approach that uses modern technology to handle and deliver on-demand holistic home and community-based caregiving to seniors and adults, helping them to age and heal with ease, control, and integrity.
Located in both Singapore and Malaysia, Homage deals with patients displaying a variety of mobility and medical problems, like chronic and terminal diseases including dementia, stroke, Parkinson’s, and cancer, to help them become more mobile and functional while also delivering social and personal care.
Nisha Andrea Raj; Care Specialist, Homage Malaysia
Andrea is a certified staff nurse with over ten years of experience in stroke care in Singapore and Saudi Arabia. Now back in Malaysia, she works as a Care Specialist for Homage where her major role is to optimise care by working together with family members.
Varnam: As Homage’s Care Specialist, can you share your experience working during a pandemic? What are the precautions that you take in your day to day job?
Andrea:As a Homage care specialist, I will stay safe by taking simple precautions such as hand washing, use of protections (gloves, mask), caution of machines, appliances, and clothing used during care, environmental protection (surface management protocols, health service waste handling), and patient housing in accordance with requirement standards as an infection transmitting vector should also be considered. Professional immunisation is another crucial step, since it provides expected immunity against vaccine-preventable diseases.
Varnam: Being in this field for so many years, how does COVID-19 make a difference in a way of experience? How has it shaped/changed the way you are as a person and a caregiver?
Andrea:Actually, to be honest I was already well-prepared since when I was working in Saudi, we had a mass COVID which is similar to the current pandemic. Even if it’s not the same virus, the danger still remains, hence I have to look out for my mental and physical health because I have experienced this previously.
Varnam:Tell me why you chose Homage as your career path?
Andrea:Well, there are too many reasons. Firstly, I joined Homage due to the high demand of home health care jobs nowadays. I found the similarity in Homage as it is a packed company, they have the ability to deliver complex care at the comfort of patients home. It’s not giving the opportunity for clinic life to be more manageable for all clients like the care of nurses. But we always had a flexible schedule when it comes to work. On top of that, Homage always provides opportunities for professional groups and the ability to specialise our own skills.
Homage made me grow into someone who is confident in giving interviews such as this and specialised talks.
Varnam: The pandemic has dropped too many challenges especially in the healthcare service field. What are the challenges that you’ve faced or still facing amid the pandemic?
Andrea: The challenges were quite a lot. Some clients are afraid to welcome me to the house due to the sudden high cases of COVID-19 cases. There were some clients who would insist I take my shower at their house and to me that was the most challenging for me personally. I’m a person who is not comfortable taking a shower at a client’s home as hygiene was my concern. But, in order to gain their trust, I would consider their request and do it accordingly. At this period, I would prioritise my clients satisfaction in my service as that is important for me.
Varnam: In conjunction with International Nurses Day, what would you like to tell all those nurses, frontliners who are working hard in combatting and exterminating the deadly virus altogether?
Andrea: For me nursing is not a job. It’s something that you do whole-heartedly and you shouldn’t be complaining also. I am a proud nurse now as being one impacts the lives of many on a daily basis.
PC Gan; Country Manager in Homage Malaysia
Led by PC, Homage heeded the call to assist in the battle against COVID-19 from both near and far. Seeing that many provide a crucial function in sustaining healthcare delivery in Malaysia, PC believes nurses should be given the same rights as doctors, if not more due to their long and close engagements with patients daily.
Varnam: What type of home care service does your centre provide especially amid the pandemic?
Gan: So, initially we started off with taking care of seniors at home. The reason why we started off with the service is because when our parents or grandparents start ageing, all they want is to stay home and they don’t prefer to get treatment at hospitals or even in nursing homes. That’s when we saw it through their eyes, where I think a lot of seniors and even culturally we as children also would prefer they stay home as much as possible. So, that’s how the programme started, with the idea of taking care of the seniors right at the comfort of their own homes. The pandemic has resulted in a reluctance amongst senior citizens to visit the hospitals and seek medical treatment due to the high risk of contracting the disease. In these last 12 to 16 months, home care is not just limited to the seniors but those in the younger age groups. When someone suffers from a stroke, rather than going to a care centre, they would instead seek a therapist and care taker to their homes.
Varnam: From your perspective, how does Homage support Malaysia’s frontliners during the pandemic? In which aspect have you reduced the burden of frontliners?
Gan: For Homage, we are helping the public hospitals in all the resources possible to help. But, I think every now and then we equip them with knowledge and information on how to care for the seniors, and for themselves we give them the pedal insurance coverage to make sure that they are also protected while taking care of Malaysians.
At the end of the day, if we don’t have the nurses and frontliners to thank for, I don’t know whether we could fight this current pandemic. It’s the nurses that we need to thank.
Varnam: How do you balance the increased risk of yourself and the rest of the staff with the urgent flow of patients infected by the virus?
Gan: Operationally we look at the caregivers and nurses poll. We make sure that these two do not cross over. For example, the nurses in Sungai Buloh hospital who take of Covid-19 patients will not be sent to any home visits. Because there will be cross contamination, we have to make sure it’s clearly segregated. For the people who we serve, we will make sure that they do not have any contact with recent PUII as to avoid our nurses from being infected while taking care of them.
Varnam:What have you learned from the experience of responding to the COVID-19 pandemic?
Gan: I am of the opinion that frontliners are not just doctors and nurses. There are people who we don’t see that are working hard day and night during this pandemic. Those people are laboratory professionals playing a vital importance like other frontliners. They have made many laboratory tests and discoveries throughout the pandemic. Hence, they should be in the first priority grouping, because they are in direct contact with the virus even if they are not directly interacting with patients. Secondly, I’m glad that we have vaccination but the execution is way too slow. During the MCO 1.0, the SOP’s were well tightened but they had limited swab testing among Malaysians. I felt it was not the right thing to do, just because there is a shortage of doctors to conduct the swab test, it doesn’t mean that nurses are less qualified to perform the test.
Varnam: In conjunction with International Nurses Day, what would you like to tell all those nurses, frontliners who are working hard just they way you are?
Gan: I have never been in the healthcare centre, and this is my first time being in the space. My message to all the nurses out there is, we know that you’ve been pulling in all the hours caring for your patients.
We love you, I specifically love you guys and in anyway possible for as long as I’m in this field, I will fight for the cause and make sure that nurses will be valued as much as doctors.
Thousands of netizens stood up and cheered to show support for our doctors. But for me nurses are warriors too.