Abu Dhabi: Thousands of dedicated expat nurses continue to tend to patients across the UAE, day in and day out.
In many cases, they may not have listed nursing as their first career choice. But first-hand experience of just how much they can do towards saving patient lives has solidified their resolve, a number of nurses have said on the occasion of Internatinal Nursing Day which was celebrated on May 12.
“I have been working as a nurse for 11 years. Growing up, I wasn’t always certain that nursing was my calling. However, my curiosity guided me to this path. I started my first year of my nursing career joining medical missions in our community not expecting anything in return, and although our government may not have been able to provide the most innovative treatments, the fact that we could still contribute to saving lives gave us hope. This is the main reason why I ventured into this profession,” said Jessica Olinares, a 31-year-old nurse at HealthPlus Fertility Centre.
The Filipina said she cherishes being able to empower patients and their families.
“When I see that a patient understands their disease process and the plan of care, it is an awesome feeling. The trust we gain from our patients and their families gives us fulfilment. On the other hand, having a patient that you take care of pass away, and seeing how devastating it is to their family and loved ones, is incredibly difficult. But being a nurse, we don’t have the luxury of crying as we have to [support the family]. In fact, our roles as nurses means that we have to deal with mental, emotional and physical exhaustion every day,” Olinares said.
Benedict Penaflor, 34, is another Filipina who never thought he would go into nursing. The senior nurse at Amana Healthcare Village said he had initially hoped to become a medical technician, but had eventually opted for nursing as a result of peer pressure.
Caring with a smile
“I really enjoy the personal interaction with my colleagues, and making patients smile when they are feeling a little low. I love walking into a ward and seeing how the patients’ faces light up when I greet them with a smile. I also talk a lot, and patients enjoy the conversation because they know that I am simultaneously seeing to their comfort and wellbeing, even with a small task like checking their blood pressure,” Penaflor said.
There are, however, a number of serious challenges that Penaflor tackles every day.
“Aside from the very real stress of dealing with a really sick patient, and comforting family members in their time of pain and grief, it is challenging to remain calm because I cannot become emotionally involved. Another of the most difficult things about my job is ensuring that I am respectful to all the diverse cultures in the Middle East, especially in times of pain for patients and family. So I practise relaxation techniques, and [keep in touch] with my family in the Philippines. I know they are so proud of me and that renews my confidence and elevates my mood. There are times when just speaking to my mother de-stresses me!” he said.
As dedicated professionals, nurses also use self-affirmation to remain committed and motivated. Bindhu Varghese, nurse lead at the Imperial College London Diabetes Centre (ICLDC), tells herself on challenging days that she has been able to change people’s lives for the better through her job.
“I have been in nursing field for 23 years, and love that I get paid for doing something I really love. I’ll be honest: this was not my first choice, as I wanted to be a teacher originally. Thanks to my father’s encouragement and guidance, I completed my Bachelor of Science in Nursing in India, and I am now very happy to be a nurse. It was certainly the right decision because part of my present role is to educate patients, [thus allowing me to be a teacher],” Varghese said.
The nurse, who has worked in a number of nursing lead roles and now mentors other nurses, attributes her success to her philosophy of speaking with clarity and honesty.
“I really believe that patients and family members appreciate that philosophy. [Still], it is one of the most difficult things for me is seeing patients in pain, knowing that I have done all I can to ease their discomfort. There are times I really feel helpless, specifically when caring for cancer patients,” Varghese said.
For Cherry Ann Malang, 33, a nurse at the Danat Al Emarat Hospital for Women and Children, nursing is a way of ‘extending to others the love and care’ that she has for her family.
“I started working in my home country as a volunteer, and over the years, I’ve seen and encountered a lot of patients who have touched my heart. [This made me realise] that I am destined to be a nurse,” she said.
Her favourite part of the job is patient appreciation.
“A patient’s smile, a look of comfort in their eyes, or simple thank you, is the most rewarding thing. Nursing is definitely one of the most priceless jobs,” she said.
Nurse empowerment is also another major factor that motivates professionals.
“The role of nurses has changed quite dramatically over the years. In the past, nurses were mainly perceived to be people who carried out doctors’ orders; today, nurses are more empowered to be part of the decision making process in patient care. Furthermore, as nursing practice evolves and embrace technological advancement, nurses play a more pivotal role in educating the public about health concerns,” said Mary Ferranco, a staff nurse at the Sheikh Khalifa Medical City.
Ferranco works mainly with paediatric patients who require continuous monitoring, and likes being able to help them at a vulnerable stage in their lives.
“We meet a lot of different people from all walks of life. While helping them, we get to hear them share their life stories. Some of these stories are struggles that we can barely imagine, while others share happy moments they had with their kids. And when the children get better, we [receive] heartfelt thanks from [the entire family],” she said.
Ferranco advised other nursing hopefuls to be mentally and physically prepared for the challenges they will face in their profession.
“It is not an easy job but you get a chance to touch people’s lives and make a difference,” she said.