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Dubai medics work hard and play hard

Sports helps professionals bounce back from exhaustion and testy patients

Gulf News

Dubai: Few people might have known stress as intimately as Agustin Cunanan does.

The Filipino staff nurse at the trauma centre of a Dubai hospital works with colleagues on a 12-hour shift, handling an average of 300 patients per shift.

“The volume of work is just huge as we get patients from the whole of UAE, and the cases vary from trauma, medical, geriatric, and others,” Cunanan, 45, told Gulf News.

Rather than letting stress build to the point where it takes it a toll on his health, Cunanan has embarked on a clear course of action to reverse its effect by following a sports regimen complete with serious cardio workouts, which have been proven to counter workplace pressures on the body.

Today, Cunanan joins 200 other health care providers in sport tournaments to let off a little steam.

For Cunanan, playing basketball keeps him in tip-top shape to fulfil his responsibilities in rendering care to those who need it most. “Through sports, we are able to keep ourselves physically and mentally fit because we need to be healthy first in order for us to work efficiently.”

Cunanan confessed that, like many of his colleagues in the medical profession, skipping meals and personal breaks to attend to patients has become common practice for him.

But the sacrifice is not always reciprocated. “Sometimes there are patients who tend to become violent, especially if we’re treating inmates or those from the psychiatry ward. I’ve been kicked in the abdomen and spat at in the face. But, as a nurse, you have to swallow your pride and stay composed because it’s all part of the job. You still have to do your duty and extend medical care to that person as best as you can,” Cunanan said.

Cunanan said the busiest and most stressful day in his experience was when there were 500 patients in one 12-hour shift. “That was the time when I felt my knees shake and weaken because of exhaustion. When I reached home, I just forgot about everything else and slept,” he said.

Like Cunanan, Angel Xerxes Pangilinan, who works as a telemetry monitor technician at the intensive care unit of the American Hospital, considers stress as a constant factor at work.

“It’s very stressful because it’s a 12-hour shift and you have to be alert and on guard the whole time. Being on duty in the ICU is no joke because even the smallest changes in a patient’s profile could turn into a life-and-death situation,” Pangilinan, 33, told Gulf News.

That’s why when the idea of beating stress through sports was floated a year back, both health care professionals grabbed the opportunity. They are just two of the more than 200 medical practitioners who play basketball and volleyball competitively every Friday at the Salahuddin Sports Complex in Dubai. The male teams compete for the Ponderosa Basketball Cup while the female teams play ball for the Mr Wok Volleyball Cup.

“I thought of organising these tournaments among ourselves to give a platform for health care providers to showcase their talents. Another reason is that sports is a good stress buster,” Sonny Delgado, a medic stationed at Rashid Hospital, told Gulf News.

“Engaging in sports helps a lot especially for us medical professionals. We can let go of all our worries when we’re engaged in sports. We can be in a stress-free environment with our family and colleagues,” Pangilinan said.