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Nurse clinician Priscilla Fu going through the first steps in the process of donning personal protective equipment
– putting on an N95 mask, goggles and shower cap. She has to “gown up” in this way when she enters an isolation room in which a coronavirus patient is warded. ST PHOTOS: JASON QUAH

The Straits Times (16 February 2020)

What is it like coming face to face with a threatening virus every day? Workers on the front lines share what they go through in the fight against the coronavirus

All in a day’s work for cool-headed nurse

The close to 70 coronavirus patients here may have the whole country in a bit of a panic, but for nurse clinician Priscilla Fu, 31, it is all in a day’s work at the National Centre for Infectious Diseases.

With 13 years of experience behind her, Ms Fu is unfazed even when she has to take swabs from the nose or the back of the throat of a patient confirmed to be infected with the coronavirus.

This process requires two nurses. The one going into the patient’s room – which is separated from the ward by two doors, of which only one can open at a time – has to “gown up” and wear an N95 mask.

She is the one who has to stick the swab – which is like a long cotton bud – into the nose or throat, twist it a little to get some tissue, then place that into a biohazard bag.

That bag is then dropped into another biohazard bag for double security. The other nurse waits in the antechamber, between the two doors.

She places an empty box into a small area where things can be passed between the people in the anteroom and the patient’s isolation room.

She closes the door to that area so the nurse in the room can drop the bag with the swab into the box, being careful not to touch the box at all.

​With 13 years of nursing experience behind her, nurse clinician Priscilla Fu from the National Centre for Infectious Diseases is unfazed even when she has to take swabs from a coronavirus patient's nose or throat.

When the nurse inside closes the door to the area, the one outside can then retrieve the box and send it to the laboratory.

"All nurses are trained in infection control," Ms Fu says.

"So I know what to do and I’m not afraid."

Furthermore, she says, the coronavirus patients are generally very cooperative.

The patients are of all ages and different nationalities, but they seem to have two things in common: Everyone wants to know what to expect, and how to connect to Wi-Fi.

So the nurses make it a point to give them detailed explanations when they are first admitted, and help them get Wi-Fi – after which those who are not too sick are happily chatting with friends and family on their mobile phones.

There was one Chinese patient who felt lonely, so a medical social worker colleague of Ms Fu’s spent some time chatting with the patient on the phone – she had to do so from outside, since all coronavirus patients are in isolation.

Ms Fu says the nurses are all working normal shifts and getting their days off, so no one gets too tired.

And the best reward for all the nurses, she says, "is the satisfaction we get when patients are well, get discharged, and tell us how grateful they are and thank us for our care".

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