Australia: ”It would be awful if I infected my patients”
corona pandemic

Australia: ”It would be awful if I infected my patients”

Australian Sarah De Wolf has done everything she can to keep the infection away from her vulnerable cancer patients. She still avoids going shopping and meeting people. Anyone who is exposed to the infection is forced to quarantine - with additional pressure on already exhausted colleagues as a result.

“I’ve only worked as a nurse during covid-19, so I haven’t known any other life as a nurse. Before, I was an insurance broker and at home with my children. As a newly qualified nurse, I understood that it would be tough, but the situation has been extremely challenging. Everyone is very tired and exhausted.

I work with cancer patients. They are of all ages, except children, and have all sorts of different forms of cancer. Although I haven’t worked directly with covid-19 patients, we have been affected enormously. What’s been most difficult is the periods we have not allowed visitors to the department. It’s awful for patients. It was like that for about six months last year: then only the very sickest patients, those who were dying, were allowed to receive a few visitors.

The shortage of staff has been a bigger problem than usual. Because we have such strict restrictions here in Melbourne, many people have been quarantined at home from work if, for example, they’ve been somewhere where infection has been detected, even if they don’t turn out to be infected themselves. Some nurses have switched to working with covid vaccinations or in the hotel quarantine system because it pays better. That leaves fewer of us working in regular care and increases the pressure. Many of us have suffered from burnout. We haven’t received any extra pay – maybe a free cup of coffee!

Sarah De Wolf

Age: 52.

Workplace: Department of Medical Oncology at Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre in Melbourne, Australia.

Salary: Approximately SEK 35 000 per month.

Qualifications: Three years of nursing training.

Our hospital is just opposite Melbourne’s large emergency hospital, which receives all covid patients. We’ve worked very hard to keep the infection away from us because all our patients have weakened immune systems. I don’t have to work in full protective clothing, but I always wear a face mask, a visor and gloves. The rules on what we have to wear are constantly changing.

What I worry about most is if I happen to get the virus and then infect someone in the ward. That would be awful. That’s why I still avoid going to the grocery store and meeting people.

There’s no requirement from the government that staff have to be vaccinated, but I would say that 80 per cent of people who work in my department are. It would be impossible to work if we weren’t. I got vaccinated as soon as I could.

The majority of Australians appreciate the work we do, and I believe that there is a better understanding of our profession. I don’t regret that I retrained as a nurse. My colleagues are fantastic, and we have a very good atmosphere. I try to focus on the little I can contribute every day. If we all do that, we can create change.”

Interviewer: Tina Zenou

Corona in Australia

Cases: 102 723

Deaths: 1 279

Deaths/100K: 5,0

Fully vaccinated: 42,1%

Source: Johns Hopkins University and Ourworldindata, 30 September 2021.

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