In 3C, there is a certain area consisting of 7 rooms which we call the Isolation Unit. This is where we cluster patients who are highly infectious and or communicable; also patients needing reverse isolation are catered here whenever appropriate. They are taken care of by one nurse each shift who wears protective gears as needed.
Isolation nurses must be regular employees so they receive full hospital benefits in the sad case that they catch the patients’ disease. It is a 3-month task of facing the same illnesses, washing hands thoroughly, and building up immune defenses. I became my shift’s Isolation Nurse last March, and I’m about to pass the crown come end of June. Following is a list of things I learned during my journey; I hope it helps my junior colleagues or just all the other nurses who might be assigned to a similar area.
- First, when a patient is just about to be admitted to the Isolation Unit, scrutinize whether he/she is really a candidate for an isolation room. You are the nurse and you have all the right to a debate!
- Learn to endure heat. Some cases require universal precaution wherein you’ll need to wear at least 3 face masks, an over-all gown, and a set of gloves. It’s a sweat-inviting gear, but I tell you, it is all worth it when you think of how best you’ve prepared for yet another battle.
- Be skilled in donning your mask in 2-seconds flat. No wearing of caps for female nurses and/or eyeglasses because it gets in the way. Remember, it is your first line of defense; when things get really, really desperate, at least you are protected.
- Learn the art of breathing and being understood despite the N-95 mask. I’m not sure which one I have perfected first, but I know that both required a lot of practice and deep-breathing exercises. I remember having colds upon donning N-95 masks before, but time just flies and now it’s just as comfortable as my white duty shoes.
- We cater to a lot of patients diagnosed with Pulmonary Tuberculosis; one confirmation test is Sputum Acid Fast Bacilli (AFB) Smear which is a spit-test for three consecutive days. As the iso-nurse, keep track of this test as if it’s your favourite T.V. show; because you HAVE to know.
- Encourage everyone to wear mask. This includes the patient, the watcher, visitors, or even the stubborn doctors making their rounds. Remind them that 3C only has 7 isolation rooms; we can’t accommodate everybody.
- Most importantly, know the patients’ diagnosis. It’s quite embarrassing that when I was a neophyte nurse, I sometimes get inside my patient’s room and take vital signs without knowing the diagnosis! But in isolation, it is crucial that we know the patient’s case in order to properly equip and protect ourselves.
- Know when to get patient out of the Isolation Unit. If suddenly the patient’s condition proved to be non-consistent with isolation-risk cases, we transfer them to a regular room. The fear and discrimination of being isolated is quite a big concern, and we just have to help them get out. Newly diagnosed cancers and pediatric patients are the usual candidates for this.
I’m happy to be able to “graduate” as the Isolation nurse; my experience honed my skills in a whole different way. I had the best time and thankfully, my patients were all awesome; some said goodbye permanently, but I’m definite I did everything I could to provide them care.
Now I need to submit myself to some tests just to be sure I’m clean coming out.