Idah Helna Dunga Sona, DEC, RN, is a team leader at Donald Berman Maimonides Geriatric Centre and is currently studying for her Bachelor's in Nursing. She was interviewed by Laurie Gottlieb on May 7, 2021.
A Nurse's Dilemma
For Idah Helna Dunga Sona, a nurse and team leader at Donald Berman Maimonides Geriatric Centre, the beginning of the pandemic was all about making one difficult decision after another. The first dilemma she was confronted with: should she volunteer to work with the COVID-19 cohort? It was the first wave, there were no vaccines, no known treatments, and little was understood about how the virus was transmitted. What should she do?
As a nurse, Idah Sona felt that she should volunteer, but she was also a wife and a mother of three young children. "This felt like accepting to get infected and putting my family at risk," she said. She talked through the situation with her husband who supported her decision to work with COVID patients.
Having her family's support was crucial for Idah Sona. "The stress and fear kept accumulating," she explained. "Every day more patients were admitted in the cohort, and more staff were getting sick."
But as team leader, Idah Sona felt she could not show how afraid she was. "My behaviour had a great effect on the team," she said. Instead, her husband became her "listening container. I just released everything when I come back home from work."
She remembers only too well the day she reached the end of her rope. She was with a patient who she knew was dying and she was the only RN on duty. If she left the room, she knew, intuitively, that the patient would die.
"Sometimes I felt like being there prolonged their life a little bit, because they would rarely die when I was there," she explained. "If I go and come back in ten minutes, then they are not breathing anymore."
But Idah Sona had another patient who needed an antibiotic, which meant she would have to leave the room. Whatever she chose to do, she felt she would be letting someone down.
"That's the day that I started crying, that particular day," she said. "I didn't know what to do."
"This situation has really helped me to really understand the kind of person and nurse that I am."
As difficult as the pandemic has been, there have been "silver linings" for Idah Sona. She didn't always know she wanted to be a nurse and had studied law in her native Cameroon. Now, however, she knows she found the "right profession."
"This situation has really helped me to really understand the kind of person and nurse that I am," she said. " I love people. I like taking care of people, nursing is my thing."
She has also decided to look at the pandemic and everything that came with it as an opportunity for professional development. "During COVID, I had the opportunity to experience a lot as a nursing professional within a short period of time," she said. It was as if the whole thing had happened in compressed time "like a scene in a movie."
She values what she has learned. "The pandemic has contributed greatly to heighten my reflection on the holistic nature of nursing, encompassing prevention of illness, treatment, and palliative care," she said. And it gave her an opportunity to manifest her personal nursing philosophy "which is that of selfless care."
"For me, I know I am happy when I give. There is this joy that comes to me when I provide compassionate care, seeing the residents happy, and their family members less stressed about their wellbeing."