Musab Awad is a Muslim nurse in the U.S. state of California whose career began with the biggest test of his professional life: fighting the COVID-19 pandemic amid shortages of medical supplies across the country.
HOAG Hospital Irvine where he works is not overflowing with coronavirus patients and has a 2:1 patient to nurse ratio. But it has similar measures in place as other facilities swamped with those who are infirmed.
Strict visitor policies are in place at the hospital: “No volunteers allowed, off duty staff are encouraged to not be in hospital premise, and staff are encouraged to stay home if they have a temperature of 100 F or showing other signs,” he told Anadolu Agency.
“Per Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC] and our hospital policy, we follow contact and droplet precautions but we know the virus can be airborne. However, staff are restricted to one mask a shift due to shortage,” said Awad.
When patients come in showing symptoms such as cough and fever, they are isolated for possible COVID-19 and the staff waits for test results to confirm.
Staff workers are on alert for extended hours and most of Awad’s friends at other hospitals are doing overtime.
“Our hospital has asked anyone that is interested to sign up for special work pool in case we get overflowed so that when needed they will be activated,” he said.
Awad, who is just 23, said for the most part to prevent his emergency room from overflowing, healthy individuals with mild symptoms are encouraged to stay home, rest, manage symptoms, and call emergency numbers for serious symptoms like shortness of breath.
“While anybody can get infected with COVID-19, individuals who are older, have cardiac or pulmonary conditions, and or immunocompromised are at most risk of going into respiratory arrest which necessitates mechanical ventilation,” he said.
Nursing grudge against the system?
It is not easy to be a health care professional at this time, he admits, given the challenges in the middle of a pandemic that has killed 13,000 and infected 400,000 Americans.
One nurse in New York, who tested positive for COVID-19, described the situation he and his colleagues are facing to the New York Times. “I feel like we’re all just being sent to slaughter,” he said.
The deadly virus has taken its toll on first responders across the world at a time when they are needed to combat the disease, with many contracting the coronavirus.
Several went public and complained, even at the expense of their employers’ wrath and own employment, about the shortages of personal protective equipment.
“It can be draining and difficult as well as the uncertainty of going back home to your families without thinking if you are putting them in danger,” said Awad, who was born to Arab and Turkish parents, grateful he has not lost any patients.
“As nurses, we took an oath to care for our patients as best as we can and we will continue to do that,” Awad promised, and urged potential patients to help by sharing the responsibility for their care by limiting the spread of the virus by staying home, practicing good hygiene and avoiding unnecessary travel and gatherings.
Nurses in the U.S. take an oath known as the The Nightingale Pledge. It is a statement of ethics and principles of the nursing profession.
Awad’s Turkish mother, Ebru, despite worrying and praying he does not contract the virus, is proud of her son’s determination to work harder during these difficult times.
Every day I watch my exhausted son while he is sleeping but his work is a service to humanity, she said.
“I couldn’t hug him for over a month.”