My experience volunteering to screen for COVID 19
3rd year nursing student
The first case of COVID-19 was diagnosed in the Kingdom of Bahrain on 24/2/2020. Since that day, strict measures have been taken by the government to prevent the spread of the virus and contain it. I have been proud to work as a student nurse in a voluntary capacity during this time, helping with screening. I am going to share my experience here in this blog.
26/2/2020 On this day a decree was released by the Crown prince to suspend kindergarten, schools, and universities for 2 weeks. As for me as a nursing student year 3, I did not fully understand this decision at that time. I kept thinking to myself it is only a few cases of COVID-19, it is not a big deal and it did not require all these measures to be taken. However, I now know why these measures were so important. This virus is completely new, the first case was reported in China in November 2019 and we continue to learn more about it. We now know that what is important about COVID 19 is that is extremely contagious and because it is so new, there is no vaccine available to protect the vulnerable. While normal flu can infect one person for every person infected, COVID 19 can infect up to three people for every one person infected. So, while the majority of people who become infected make a full recovery, the consequences for those with existing medical conditions or the elderly can be fatal. Experiences of COVID 19 in other countries has been different to ours here in Bahrain where we have had just 8 deaths in 10 weeks. In countries such as Italy, the USA, Spain and Iran there has been extensive loss of life, with coronavirus affecting people of all ages and health backgrounds.
After the lockdown was announced, I was surprised when within a few days the cases started to increase day after day until that day in which Bahrain registered 159 cases of COVID-19, 11/3/2020. I began to understand why the lockdown was necessary, and I was shocked that even with all these measures that have been taken, the virus could spread.
After the exacerbation in the number of people who tested positive with the COVID-19 virus, the Ministry of Health requested volunteers to work in multiple fields. Due to a shortage of staff and to contain the disease as soon as possible. On 23/3/2020 I received an e-mail from RCSI Bahrain requesting any nursing year 3 and year 2 students to volunteer in the Ministry of Health.
I was one of the first students who applied to volunteer. It is a unique opportunity for a nursing student, and it is a way to gain experience. As a nursing student, I thought it was the time to show everyone what nursing student is capable of and it is the time to fight this virus and to protect our country and our people.
Let’s slow down a little, volunteering in the examination center for COVID-19 was not as easy as you think. Before I applied, I discussed my wish to volunteer with both my father and mother. One of the biggest issues was trying to convince my mother that I should take part. In the beginning, she was strongly refusing the idea, as she worried that I will get the virus and also that I would spread it at home. She worried that I am still a student and do not know how to protect myself. In myself, I knew that this reaction was natural, as a maternal instinct. It is natural that she feels afraid for her son’s life. However, my father encouraged me and told me it will be a great accomplishment for my CV. I reassured them both that I had been well prepared and educated in relation to maintaining isolation procedures, donning personal protective equipment (PPE) correctly and washing my hands. I also educated my family and friends about the importance of handwashing, social distancing and reporting the symptoms of COVID 19 if any are experienced. Health promotion and public education is a crucial part of my role as a student nurse.
26/3/2020 was an unforgettable date for me, as it was the first day in the COVID-19 screening center at the Bahrain International Exhibition. I felt lucky as the center organization was very professional and organised, the safety measures were very high, and the Ministry of Health had provided everything to protect all of us working there.
Volunteering gave me unforgettable memories, one of those memories was in the first day as a volunteer, we received an old patient who appeared to be very sick, as he was coughing hard. You could hear him from meters away. I remember that I was taking care of him and suddenly one of my colleagues, a doctor, came and warned me to stay away from him as he was a suspected case of COVID-19. He then took him to the ambulance. After this situation, the whole day I started having doubts about volunteering, I worried that I might get infected and the thought kept on filling my mind although I was wearing appropriate PPE and had taken the handwashing precautions. The very next day I immediately went and took the swab test and thankfully the result came back negative.
Now, I feel lucky and happy I volunteered. This opportunity came in excellent time as I will graduate from nursing school next year. I learned so much from this event and I am still learning every day from different nurses from all over the country who had great experiences in the medical field. The most interesting part of this experience for me is when nurses share stories from their past. I really find it entertaining and helpful for me as a nursing student. Not to mention that I got to know many graduated nurses from my college RCSI Bahrain. They gave me tips to focus on while studying and when I graduate.
At the end of this pandemic, life will not be the same as before. Everything will change and people will be dedicated to preventing these conditions from occurring again. People take more responsibility for taking care of their own health. I think my experience is something worthwhile to be shared with future generations. They will learn from us, the same as we learned from the people who faced similar pandemics throughout the past years. I’m looking forward to the moment that a vaccine will be developed and this disease can be eradicated from all over the world. Until then I am really glad to do my part as a student nurse working to fight this virus.
I would like to thank my nursing lecturers for their kind and valuable support and guidance.