‘You have to be committed to caring’
The Royal Gazette is highlighting members of the Bermuda Nurses' Association throughout May. This week we spoke with Janice Mullings-George, a perioperative clinical resource nurse at King Edward VII Memorial Hospital who chairs the Bermuda Nursing and Midwifery Council and was the 2019 Nurse of the Year.
Every day, after a demanding shift on the frontline, Janice Mullings-George begins the long journey home.
The distance from King Edward VII Memorial Hospital isn't any greater since Covid-19 arrived in Bermuda, but there are now added tasks — most of which involve disinfectant.
“Our uniforms get laundered here at the hospital and we come home in our regular clothes, [but] my shoes get disinfected every single day; anything that goes in and out of the house gets sprayed and disinfected.
“I can't touch the kids before I get in the shower. I've had to retrain my two-year-old and my six-year-old that mummy has to be clean so she can be safe. Trying to explain to a two-year-old, who hasn't seen mummy all day and wants to hug me, has been a little challenging.”
Bermuda has recorded 122 positive cases of Covid-19. Nine people have died as a result of the disease. There are currently two people in critical care at KEMH.
“We have to take precautions with every single patient, as if they may have Covid, because that's the kind of environment we're in,” Ms Mullings-George said. “That means having to wear N95 masks, a shield, goggles if needed, a gown and everything else.
“Our area was made into the satellite ICU just in case there was any overflow and so I had to amalgamate with the ICU nurses who were going into the rooms [of Covid patients] making sure that they had what they needed. It's been a real team approach. Everybody pitching hands in, helping out.”
It's all part and parcel of what she signed up for when she became a nurse in 2006. “God put a passion in [her] heart for caring” while a student at the Bermuda Institute. It's something she draws on to steady patients, and also her co-workers whose roles are constantly changing to keep pace with Covid-19.
“Nurses have always been a part of the healthcare system in helping mitigate whatever infectious disease there is — from HIV to MRSA to Sars — but I think uniquely towards Covid-19 it has definitely meant that you have to be very dynamic in the way you do things because things have changed so rapidly with this disease.
“When we first started out. [the safety recommendation] was that everyone should wash their hands and practise physical-distancing and now it's gone to the point where everyone is wearing masks. So for us it's making sure we are at the cutting edge of the latest information, that we know how to protect ourselves and our community.
“In my role, as a clinical resource nurse, I have to implement that with the staff and get them to understand that this is a change now, but there could be another change after. It's made us very dynamic and quick and having to be flexible with all the changes that come.”
Ms Mullings-George is grateful for the help she gets from her husband, Raymond George. A music teacher, he gives virtual lessons while homeschooling and caring for their daughters, Naomi and Seraiah, so his wife can work.
“There are a lot of nurses here who come from a lot of different countries,” she said. “I go home to a husband and children, they go home to four walls and don't know when they're going to be able to get on a plane and see the people they love.
“[We need] to make them really feel appreciated because they do give up quite a bit. A lot of them really do care about giving quality care to the patients. [They] have paused their lives in other countries and I know that some of them are feeling low being away from their families especially at this time.”
On the upside, the pandemic seems to have brought a better public understanding “of what nurses do and what we face every day”. Flowers and meals that have been delivered have meant a lot as has not having to queue to buy groceries.
“I do think people are understanding how hard it is for nurses in general, so yes, we are feeling the love, but we want it to continue beyond this. As a nurse you have to be committed to caring no matter what. Despite all the rapid changes with Covid-19, as nurses we get out there every day and deliver safe care.”
With the disease likely to be around for “some time”, Ms Mullings-George has decided to start doing little things for herself to “maintain a good mental balance”.
“Unless it's 100 per cent eradicated, which will take some time, I think it's going to be a new world and a new normal for us. I have to start now doing little things — maybe just taking 15 minutes to take deep breaths, to read a book; it may just mean taking time aside just for myself to journal my feelings and to see how I can give back to someone else.”
Her hope, as a nurse regulator and clinical resource nurse, is to get more Bermudians to join the profession here.
“Nursing is a very rewarding profession — whether you are at the bedside daily or serving to make decisions that impact nursing care. I am very thankful to my former director, Mrs C. Loretta Santucci, who encouraged me to consider this area of nursing.”
• Learn more about the Bermuda Nurses' Association at bna.bm and the Bermuda Nursing and Midwifery Council at bnc.bm