Nursing in the time of COVID-19

The story of a nurse on the front line.

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(Credit: Getty Images)

At a time when people are looking to our frontline workers for care and reassurance, I want to acknowledge all hospital staff who are turning up during this time—from cleaners, hospitality staff to physicians and nurses. This is my story as a nurse on the front line.

“We have a suspected COVID-19 patient on the ward.”

It wasn’t the first time in the past month these words had been uttered by my manager, but this time seemed different, more serious. She looked over all our faces, having to look out the door where some nurses stood so that we could keep social distancing within the staff tea room as she spoke the next words:

“I’m asking for volunteers for this patient and for others who may come in the next week.”

Before she could even finish the sentence my hand was raised. The Holy Spirit had prompted me in a way I had never felt so strongly before. I volunteer as tribute. No, just, I’m happy to volunteer to look after her.

The words of the psalmist flowed over me as I walked towards the designated isolation room:

“He will cover you with his feathers,
and under his wings you will find refuge;
his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.
You will not fear the terror of night,
nor the arrow that flies by day,
nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness,
nor the plague that destroys at midday.
A thousand may fall at your side,
ten thousand at your right hand,
but it will not come near you.”
—Psalm 91:4-7

"So many nurses are putting their hands up to be a part of the frontline fight against COVID-19. That’s just what nurses do, almost like it’s in our DNA."

The words gave me such peace as I walked into a potentially dangerous situation. Putting on my gown, goggles, mask and gloves to go into the room for the first time, I was so grateful that I had enough personal protective equipment (PPE) for my shift and that God had provided extra for our hospital. With God’s protective hand over me I stepped into the battle zone without fear. And there I met and cared for the loveliest lady who—even though she only saw a girl in a gown, mask and goggles—I hoped saw a glimpse of Jesus that day.

This year has been set aside by the World Health Organization (WHO) as the Year of the Nurse and Midwife. I don’t think anyone expected what 2020 would actually hold for nurses, but it seems this year will definitely show the world what a special group they are.

Here in Australia, nurses—along with the rest of the hospital staff—play a crucial role across the patient-care journey. Nurses are working in COVID-19-dedicated wards, providing support, comfort and guidance to people in emergency rooms who are worried they have contracted the disease. They are putting in place vital infection control processes to protect patients and themselves.

They are holding hands (with gloves on), they are providing reassurance, they are skilled in or upskilling in working with respiratory machines, critical care medications and with critically-ill patients. Nurses are adjusting to constant new information, policies and guidelines. They are tired, anxious and scared of bringing anything home to their families, yet they are showing up. So many nurses are putting their hands up to be a part of the frontline fight against COVID-19. That’s just what nurses do, almost like it’s in our DNA.

Nursing began in the crisis of a world war. Today, we are in a coronavirus crisis and we fight this war with similar principles of good hygiene, particularly hand hygiene. We are going back to the basics, the heart of nursing, and it’s working just as it did in the war decades ago.

Every day, thousands of nurses and healthcare professionals—including hundreds at Sydney Adventist Hospital (the San)—will turn up and fulfil their duties to serve our communities and implement evidence-based practice and protective and preventative health measures for the safety of every patient.

I am so grateful for my experiences these past few weeks at the San. It has been so stressful and hard at times, but to see a group of people come together to work each day, knowing they may come into contact with the virus, but choosing to care for people anyway, is a beautiful thing to watch and be part of. I am constantly in awe of the people I work with—who the San is blessed to have. They are amazing, resourceful, intelligent, brave and kind people.

Ellen White writes in Counsels on Health, “The Lord wants wise men and women, who can act in the capacity of nurses, to comfort and help the sick and suffering. O’ that all who are afflicted might be ministered to by Christian physicians and nurses who could help them to place their weary, pain-racked bodies in the care of the Great Healer in faith looking to Him for restoration” (388.2).

God has put on my heart this verse, “Never grow weary in doing good” (2 Thessalonians 3:13). It’s never rung more true to me than during this time. I pray for our Church and encourage everyone to continue to do good where you can, even if it is just a message to a healthcare worker saying you’re thinking of them and praying for them today.

Thank you for your continued prayers for our healthcare workers and our hospital and I praise God that He is our Protector and Provider.


Geena-Rose Burton is a nurse at Sydney Adventist Hospital.