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Women on the frontline (1/3): Nurses are patients’ last contact before passing away

Issued on: 28/04/2020 – 15:54Modified: 28/04/2020 – 16:10

Every night, from their balconies and wi..

By admin , in Health , at April 28, 2020

Issued on: 28/04/2020 – 15:54Modified: 28/04/2020 – 16:10

Every night, from their balconies and windows, the French publicly applaud healthcare workers and nursing staff on the frontline in the fight against Covid-19. In France, nearly 90 percent of nurses are female. So how are these women coping with this unprecedented crisis? FRANCE 24 spoke to four of them.


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"For the moment, our most important mission is to help patients but if this continues, they will have to find cannon fodder elsewhere," said Leslie, a palliative care nurse in Marseille, working 12 hours a day to care for people at the end of their life.

Like all hospitals and clinics in France, her department is constantly receiving critical Covid-19 cases: "We have drastically reduced visits, so imagine telling families, who know their loved ones are at the end of their life, that they have no right to see them. Psychologically, this is incredibly difficult for us. We are their only contact before they die."

In her department, there is only one male employee out of 18 nurses. Its estimated that 88 percent of nurses are women, according to SNPI, a French union for nurses.

'Isaid to myself: if its positive, that's it, I'm finished'

The 31-year-old nurse said her clinic recently saw a patient in the final stage of cancer who showed symptoms suggesting coronavirus. "He had a fever and respiratory failure. He arrived at our department in the morning but the doctor decided to test him at 2pm. Yet throughout the morning, I was in close contact with him without protection."

The result did not come back until the next day, creating enormous anxiety for Leslie. "I said to myself: if it's positive, that's it, I'm finished."

It turned out that he was negative but Leslie was still furious at the lack of responsiveness from her superiors that had been the case since the pandemic broke out in France. The same is true for Sylvie*. The 50-year-old nurse has been practicing for 20 years and now works for a mobile emergency and resuscitation service in northern France. As soon as she heard of the epidemic in China, she began to study the virus.

"When I saw what was happening there, I said to myself, we had to prepare. Were now realising how serious the situation is; we should have been better prepared,” Sylvie said.

One morning, she was looking after a 22-year-old female patient who had a 40°C degree temperature while struggling for oxygen: "She was like a dog after a race, very short of breath. We transferred her to intensive care as soon as she arrived."

Like many, Sylvie did not think that young people would be seriously at risk. "And heres a concrete example of a 22-year-old suffering serious symptoms. She has a good chance of coping but her case was very worrying,” she said.

She worried that information was not being passed on to frontline workers. "Were told that surgical masks are enough but we dont believe it. The doctors themselves are not even aware of all the measures to take when there is a doubt about a patient."

'We ended up wearing a mask a day when we should have changed it every three to four hours'

Pauline* is a nursing assistant in Bordeaux. In her cardiology department, as with all medical facilities in France, non-emergency operations have been postponed since mid-March at the governments request.

Surrounded by a majority of women in her workplace (39 out of 40 nurses), she confirmed there had been a lack of equipment and problems with distribution.

"As they were afraid of thefts, they stored everything in locked management offices. Every time, we need a new mask, we have to ask permission to access their offices. So we eRead More – Source