Seow Crystalbel Pearlyn is a Senior Staff Nurse at Singapore General Hospital and a frontliner in the Covid-19 pandemic. The 27-year-old sheds some light on the challenges she faces at work during this trying time, and what keeps her going when the going gets tough.

“I work in an isolation ward, so I care for intensive care unit patients, and now, high dependency Covid-19 patients.

When the outbreak first happened, I struggled with uncertainty because there wasn’t much information on the virus. My colleagues and I were also exhausted after caring for our first batch of patients because we had to constantly reoptimise our workflow to learn how to care for them without compromising our own safety.

Being a Covid-19 medical frontliner is challenging. For one, just wearing a surgical mask and face shield or goggles for 15 minutes can hurt the skin on the face. And because we also wear a shower cap, gown and gloves for up to three hours each time, we can get uncomfortably warm—it’s not uncommon to suffer from giddiness and headaches. Our hands have also become dry and chapped since we sanitise them so often.

It can also be really tiring. Apart from providing patients who are very sick with extra care, we also help patients with discharge procedures, or move them from one part of the hospital to another.

That said, my workload is actually the same as before, because apart from the implementation of heightened precautionary measures, nothing much has changed. Even though the Covid-19 patients may have different needs, my nursing duties are similar.

And this crisis has given me a lot to be grateful for—not only have my colleagues and I grown closer because we know that we’re all in this together, but we’re regularly encouraged by members of the public through handwritten notes or donated meals. Friends and families of colleagues also show their appreciation by sending us home-baked pastries.

It has also made clear the support I have from the people around me: my family members aren’t too concerned about my job because they are nurses themselves, and my close friends give me a call from time to time to check on how I’m doing. In fact, they’re sometimes more worried about my work than I am and I’m the one who reassures them that everything is going to be alright.

There’s nothing I’d change about any of this because I believe that everything happens for a reason. This can be a learning journey for everyone, not just for patients or healthcare workers, and when I decided to become a nurse, I’d already thought about serving in a pandemic like this.”