When South Australian nursing student Melissa Boyd first became aware of the Coronavirus pandemic making its way through Australia, her first though was: ‘what can I do to help?’.
“The second was to start to educate myself and my family and friends about the gravity of this virus, and how serious it needs to be taken,” says Melissa, an enrolled nurse, currently completing her Bachelor of Nursing with CDU.
“The Covid19 situation changes rapidly, and educating myself and those around me, including patients, on how to stop the spread in the community is critical.”
As soon as the gravity of the crisis became known, Melissa’s Nursing Unit Manager announced her relocation to help establish a COVID-19 testing clinic.
“My response was to wish her all the best, and ask how I could help and did she need staff,” says Melissa.
“I was more than happy to go to the front line and help us fight the unknown, and be a part of making a difference – all while learning.
“I knew many would be afraid of the new virus, but my fear was not being able to know more and not to be able to help where I could.”
Melissa understood from the outset that being a key player in fighting COVID-19 would require serious sacrifices.
“I have not seen any family or friends since starting in this clinic.
“But I have grandchildren, and I wanted to be a part of making their futures safe.”
Melissa’s role is diverse, ranging from triage to education, and everything in between.
A typical morning might include setting up the clinic, getting into scrubs, and checking equipment is available, such as masks, gowns, goggles, pathology equipment, patient monitoring equipment, and patient handouts
“Dressing in PPE is the hardest part of the job,” says Melissa.
“It is exhausting being in PPE for eight hours a day, sometimes longer - not being able to simply breathe fresh air takes its toll.”
As the day progresses, Melissa might find herself triaging patients and documenting their history; reassuring and educating patients; de-escalating or reporting patients that are aggressive or afraid; supporting staff in the clinic and educating new staff; testing patients and taking their vital signs; accessing results and documentation; contacting patients with results and advising them of next steps, and reporting to senior staff.
At the end of the day, Melissa closes the clinic, heads home, and sits down to a night of study.
“Before this clinic, I worked 64 hours per fortnight,” she says.
“Last fortnight I worked 81 hours in the clinic, including being on call on a Thursday night.”
Despite the long hours, Melissa believes nursing students have a key role to play in the COVID-19 response.
“Although at times very demanding, I have found working in the clinic to be rewarding.
“I have been given the chance to be a part of something we have never faced before, and it has given me some important nursing skills as well as some important personal skills.
“It has shown me skills in my nursing ability I didn’t realise I had, such as supporting the clinic and helping in a way that aids in keeping the clinic functioning on a daily basis.
“I have had such great support from my senior management in further developing my leadership skills, and although I have found myself exhausted, I wouldn’t change what I have done in helping with this clinic and for the people I have cared for during this time.”
Now, as the country turns a corner, Melissa says she looks forward to when Australians are able to look back, and be proud of what we have achieved together to overcome this pandemic.
“I am proud of myself both as the person I am and the nurse that I am and, in the work, I have done to help during this time.
“I have grown over this time as I have watched how differently people behave during a time of crisis, and hope I take those lessons with me in my future.
“But most of all, I look forward to seeing my loved ones again, spending time with friends and family, and having the ability to camp by the river with my incredibly supportive partner, and enjoy the serenity our beautiful country has to offer.”