Tiffany McKay MACN often spends this time of year holidaying in sunny Southern Europe. However, COVID-19 has disrupted those plans and she now finds herself on the frontline of the pandemic at Bendigo Hospital. In the lead up to International Nurses Day (IND) on 12 May, we caught up with Tiffany to discuss her journey into the nursing profession, what it is like to work in a COVID-19 ward and how she plans to celebrate the day.
Before entering the profession, Tiffany worked as a manager at an online office supplier business before transitioning to become a nurse.
“I started out in aged care as an enrolled nurse and then transferred to the acute setting in a neuro-rehab ward. I have been there since 2017 and am now an associate nurse unit manager,” she says.
Tiffany has recently transferred to work at Bendigo Hospital’s newly established COVID-19 ward. The ward treats patients who are too unwell to return home after being tested for COVID-19 at the nearby screening clinic.
“I put my hand up to volunteer in the [COVID-19] ward,” Tiffany says.
“We currently have a lot of patients who have been screened for COVID-19 and most of these have been elderly. No patient has tested positive since I moved to the ward.”
At the time of this interview, there have only been nine COVID-19 cases in Bendigo. For Tiffany, the local community’s acceptance of social distancing guidelines has been key to suppressing the spread of the virus in Bendigo.
“Social distancing has been really effective here,” she says.
“We have received a lot of thanks and praise from the media and community and I think we need to give the community praise and thank you for abiding by the rules and the social distancing. This keeps them safe and ensures we are not being inundated as well. They need to be thanked as much as we do.”
The year 2020 has been full of challenges for nurses in Australia, first with the bushfire crisis and now the COVID-19 pandemic. These challenges have strengthened Tiffany’s already strong connection and pride in being part of the nursing profession.
“The situation in the last six months has really highlighted how important our profession is,” she says.
“We as nurses not only care for individuals but whole communities and societies. I am proud to be a nurse.”
She is also very thankful for the exceptional job her colleagues are doing on the frontline of the pandemic.
“I think it is really important to let them know they don’t have to feel like the weight of the world is on their shoulders. It is okay to have breakdowns and show emotions and to feel like you can’t do it,” she says.
These challenges make this year’s International Nurses Day celebrations — which also coincides with 2020 being declared Year of the Nurse & Midwife by the World Health Organization — extra special.
Tiffany is determined to celebrate the day, despite the restrictions due to COVID-19.
“I’ve got some ideas. I think it would be really good to dress up on the day, maybe as superheroes, and share photos on social media to say thank you to everyone,” she says.