Dubai: The UAE’s response to COVID-19 has been lauded globally and this can be largely attributed to the dedication and efforts of the frontliners in the country, including nurses, doctors, emergency workers, police and so many more sectors. As the world grappled with the pandemic’s effects in 2020, we followed the day of a nurse who works in Dubai to see what the job entails.
Anumol Jose (31) opened her home in Sharjah to us at 6am right before getting ready to head to work. A family of three, her husband is also in healthcare, as a nurse in Sheikh Khalifa Hospital, Ras Al Khaimah. While we spoke softly so as to not wake her sleeping toddler, Anu said the family had gotten used to the new COVID-19 reality of life.
As the in-charge of the maternity and paediatric ward at Aster Hospital in Qusais, Anu's regular shift is from 7am everyday while her husband’s shifts change from week to week.
“In the beginning, you know, we were worried and took extra care but now we know how it is, and we got used to this,” the Kerala expat said. Her husband Bijeesh works in the ICU department, and used to handle COVID-19 patients at the beginning of the outbreak.
“Workwise, we don’t feel any challenges [amid COVID-19]”, the couple added.
Spending time with family
Speaking about enjoying time with the family and going out, Anu said, “Since both of us are nurses, our shifts change, so we always try to find time to be with my son and my mom, and to be together as a family. Even in the evenings, we just want to sit together, watch a movie, play with our son.”
When we visited her home, her mother was also living with the young family. “She came from India right before the restrictions on travel began [March, 2020],” Anumol added as she slowly got into her routine for the day. The nurse has a twin sister and an older sister, both of whom are engineers, as she joking said she took the path less taken. Anu’s father was an expat in Kuwait for over 16 years and is currently retired and in India.
Getting ready for work is a 15-minute process that ends with a kiss for her toddler and a prayer before heading out. “My husband is off today, so he is dropping me, or else I would have been on the hospital pick-up,” Anu said as we left her home.
Starting the day with a briefing
Punching in the biometric system at work, Anu’s day with us officially started with a trip to the staff locker room where the nurses keep their belongings and get dressed.
“Because of COVID-19, we are not allowed to come dressed in our scrubs unless we have personal transportation. Usually, I carry my uniform in a plastic bag from home, since I live in Sharjah and take a cab, so I get dressed here.” Anu explained.
Heading in, Anu walked in just in time to meet the night shift of nurses preparing to leave and the incoming morning shift. “This is the perfect time for me, since I can do the handover from night to morning and get patient updates and all,” she said. Anu also meets the afternoon shift before heading home, so she knows what’s happening round the clock.
“I am also available throughout the night so the nurses can call me in case of any doubt or any update,” she added.
Making sure everything is in place
As the head nurse of the ward, Anu’s major responsibilities revolve around ensuring everything is in place and stocked up as required by the law, and making sure everyone knows what they’re supposed to be doing. We followed her around as she completed all the checks and balances of the morning, from getting patient status from her night nurses to checking the medicine stock sheet and the emergency cart in the ward.
There are several quality systems in place to ensure proper care and preparation is made for patients. One of these systems is a random check by the hospital’s quality system. “My team will ensure that everything is always kept ready, and I just double-check to make sure everything is in place,” Anu explained.
Anu worked in Bangalore, India for three years, and then in Saudi for three years before coming to the UAE. She was made head of her ward at Aster in 2020. Speaking of her transition from a staff nurse to becoming the in-charge, Anu said, “At first I only had to take care of the patient, the patient was my focus, but now I have to take care of the patients, along with the staff and a full ward… so it can be challenging.”
One of her major responsibilities is the safe and secure handling of the drugs classified as narcotic-grade. Almost movie-like, Anu always holds one key without which no nurse or doctor can open the safe. No nurse, including herself, is allowed in the room without another nurse. Apart from this, her day also involves administrative supervision, including nurses’ performance reviews and leave rotation management.
Visiting patients, ensuring comfort
Anu stays in daily contact with the in-charge nurse of the labour ward so she can direct her team to keep rooms ready for mothers and new-borns soon after delivery for their immediate post-natal care. After all of this, she visits her patients throughout the day, ensuring mothers and new-borns are doing well.
Taking note of any signs of discomfort for baby or mother, and ensuring medicine files for each patient are update also falls under Anu’s purview. Her team of nurses brief her on any new patients, and on new medications or treatment for existing patients.
“We have 28 rooms, usually all our rooms are full, maybe one or two stay vacant. This (maternity ward) is like we don’t keep patients for long, it is a quick in and out process, so we discharge a patient to take in the next person.”
Making sure teams are prepared
When asked about a break, Anu said her break is usually when she has breakfast and/or lunch at the hospital cafeteria. In between our conversations, Anu asks for updates from her morning team on developments on each patient. This continues throughout the day for the nurse since she also has to ensure that her evening team come in well-prepared to offer the best care for the patients.
Anu’s day, along with that of her morning team carry on until after 3.30pm. She added, “Morning, night and afternoon there is a team leader [among the nurses], I’ll be communicating with them [all day]. I will inform the team leader the next day duties, updates… I let them know what needs to be done till I reach the next day.”
“Even after work also, definitely I answer any queries. I stay in touch with them. They are capable of handling anything but If there is anything they need I am always available.”
As we concluded our video, letting Anu go about the rest of her day, she said, “I am happy someone is watching our work, the work nurses do. I’m happy for that…”
Stuck in India for four months
The expat who hails from Pala in Kottayam headed home in April for vacations, after almost two years, with her husband, toddler and mother. “We have been waiting for so long for this vacation,” she said at the time.
However, Anu and her family got stuck in India amid the travel restrictions put in place in April stopping all passenger flights from India. While her husband managed to fly home cutting the vacation short, Anu wasn't able to. After four months, Anu, her son, and her mother were able to return on August 10.