Healthcare providers face certain health risks every day they show up at work, from potential needle pricks to chronic stress and even major depression – a myriad of conditions referred to as occupational hazard (a risk accepted as a consequence of a particular occupation).
When the COVID-19 pandemic surfaced, bringing with it an alarmingly high number of infected persons and deaths, it made the duty of health workers in providing care for the sick all the more challenging and frightening. While individuals and businesses were shut down, healthcare providers and other essential workers daily had to brave the virus to work on the front line – they were the hope of a dying world.
Today’s post features a Nigerian doctor who enlisted to work on Nigeria’s front line, managing COVID-19 positive patients in Lagos state, the epicentre of COVID-19 infection in the country.
Meet Dr Oluwatofunmi Gbenedio, who describes herself as a medical doctor by profession and fun-loving girl by choice.
Tell Us Why You Chose To Work On The Frontline
I felt useless when I saw photos and videos of health workers in other countries working on the front line. It almost got me depressed, so I decided to make myself available to work at an isolation centre; luckily, the opportunity came and I couldn’t imagine not being a part of the pandemic.
What was a typical day at work like?
We ran 8-hour shifts at my isolation centre, so a typical day depends on what shift you’re working. Nevertheless, each shift would see the patients at least twice a day, excluding emergencies and complaints.
How much did your life outside work change?
Life outside work changed a great deal for me and most of us. Things were definitely not the same. Majority of my time outside work was spent in isolation. We were put in isolation hotels and I passed the time after work reconnecting with family and friends over social networks.
How did you cope with being away from family for long?
My colleagues became my new family. We formed a bond that I hope will last long after working at the isolation centre. Moreover, I communicated with my family during isolation and tried to maintain a constant line of communication with them, even though I missed seeing them physically.
Did you ever get overwhelmed with work?
I like to think of myself as a workaholic; so getting overwhelmed with work is an unlikely thing to happen. Yes, there were days when the workload was a lot, but I enjoyed every bit and tried to rest when I had the chance.
Did you ever get scared of contracting the virus in the course of work? How did you manage that?
My only fear was getting the virus and then infecting my family and friends. Asides that, I wasn’t particularly bothered about contracting the virus; I had the conviction that I wouldn’t get infected – seeing as I followed every process of infection prevention and control as I was trained to.
What do you consider your reward?
My reward will be my satisfaction in knowing I volunteered to be a part of this. This knowledge that I willingly decided to help irrespective of the risk involved, and getting to see my patients go home after spending some time on admission is definitely amazing and priceless. I guess that’s enough reward for me.
You will be concluding a 4-month work period at the isolation centre this week, what will you miss?
I will mostly miss the work environment; it was very friendly. I will also miss the learning and training opportunities I had there. I would have added that I would miss the relationships I made, but we plan to keep in touch even outside the isolation centre.
Has working in an isolation centre changed your view of medicine in any way or your choice of specialisation?
This is a very interesting question! Yes, I have always wanted to be a cardiothoracic surgeon; but after working as an intensive care unit (ICU) physician at the isolation centre, I am now strongly considering emergency medicine. I am keeping my fingers crossed.
What final words do you have for your colleagues and other Nigerians?
To my colleagues, I say thank you for being there – whether in an isolation centre or not – you have been helpful in these times. To Nigerians, COVID-19 is real. Please, stay safe. Maintain social distance. Wear a mask. Wash/sanitize your hands.
The first time I came across Dr Oluwatofunmi was when she shared a delightful video of herself doffing (taking off) the PPE. Later, when she tweeted about starting her last week at the isolation centre and the mixed feelings it brought, I reached out to her and asked if she would be kind as to share her experience in a featured blog post. I was pleased when she gladly accepted.
It’s worth noting that these doctors opt-in not from a place of bravery, but a heart for service and contribution.
Got any questions or thoughts? Please, share in the comments and feel free to share this post with anyone who might find it useful. Let’s spread the word about COVID-19 and our heroes holding fort at the front lines.