As Turkish nurses continue to work tirelessly at the forefront of the battle against the coronavirus, they treat not only patients' bodily health but also their state of mind.
"Nurses use a holistic approach while treating patients, which means not only supporting them physically but also psychologically and mentally," Specialist Nurse Damla Bozkaya told Anadolu Agency (AA) on the occasion of Nurses Week.
Bozkaya, who works at the Hacettepe Hospital Adult COVID-19 service in the Turkish capital Ankara, said they work more than 40 hours a week with long shifts.
Explaining how hard they have worked since the coronavirus pandemic struck Turkey, Bozkaya said nurses, regardless of their energy levels, become personally involved with each patient every day.
"We're in constant communication with patients, since they don't have other people around," she said.
"Their room doors are constantly closed due to infection risk, and some of our patients fear death. They ask me questions like ‘Will I get well? Is everyone in a bad situation like me? I'm afraid of dying. Have you contracted the virus?'"
"I calmly explain the process to each patient individually and try to relieve them psychologically."
Since the patients lack companions, nurses have to spend more time in the rooms of elderly, hearing-impaired and vision-impaired patients, she said.
"Unfortunately, despite our protective equipment, in these situations, we're exposed to a long and intense virus load," she added.
Underlining that they take protective measures against the virus seriously, she said they wear bonnets, gloves and glasses, and put surgical masks over their medical-grade N95 masks.
"Most of the time, we can't eat our meals in the cafeteria. We take turns with our colleagues eating in the nurses' room to avoid taking off our masks at the same time," she said.
Stressing that the air conditioners in the COVID-19 ward are turned off to prevent air from circulating, she said it is very difficult to work there, especially in summer, as they have to dress in layers.
"Working constantly leads to fatigue and distraction. Sometimes when we work so hard, we need to check each other to see if we're wearing our personal protective equipment properly," said Bozkaya.
She went on to say that difficult working conditions have impacted them since many nurses stay in separate lodgings to prevent spreading the virus to their families.
"My colleagues who are married and have children found it very difficult to explain to their children why they couldn't go home. Family patterns have been shaken," she said.
As nurses have been at the forefront of the fight against the virus for more than a year, Bozkaya said they have certain expectations about providing better care to patients as well as protecting public health.
"If we had more nurses, I think we could work flexibly and be less exposed to the virus load," she said, arguing that the number of nurses per patient should not be left up to individual institutions but instead standardized nationally.
Bozkaya said her mother contracted the virus and was hospitalized for a time.
"Being a nurse, as well as my mother's daughter, we had a unique experience while I was on duty. When I saw she had a fever or was in pain, it was very difficult for me to be professional," she said.
"I helped cure my mother and discharged her from the hospital with my own hands. It was the best feeling in the world," she noted.
As a nurse who recovered from the virus herself last summer, Bozkaya said nurses go back to work after 10 days of isolation if their PCR tests are negative.
Ankara will impose a weeknight curfew and implement a full lockdown on weekends that will start Monday and last until the beginning of June as Turkey prepares to enter a "gradual normalization period," the Interior Ministry said Sunday.
Since December 2019, the pandemic has claimed over 3.35 million lives in 192 countries and regions, according to figures compiled by Johns Hopkins University in the United States.
More than 161.94 million cases have been reported worldwide. The U.S., India and Brazil remain the worst-hit countries in terms of the number of cases.