Nurses are the backbone of local communities. In times of peace and crisis, their expertise and skills are essential to protecting and improving the health of individuals, particularly those in vulnerable groups who most need assistance. When nine Public Housing Towers went into lockdown in Melbourne in July to help prevent the spread of COVID-19, it was no surprise that nurses rushed to the frontline to assist. This month, we spoke to Lisa Peters, the nurse who passionate letter about the reality of testing in the towers went viral on social media, as part of our Life in Lockdown NurseClick series. To shine the spotlight on a different role nurses played during the lockdown, we interviewed Fraser and Tim, two Registered Nurses with drug and alcohol expertise, about how they ensured the existing medical conditions of residents were looked after during the lockdown.
Fraser and Tim were both part of a multi-disciplinary team that worked at a pop-up medical clinic at the North Melbourne Towers which was quickly set-up to provide general practice services to the residents of the towers. As the residents were not allowed to leave the Towers, a large part of Tim and Fraser’s role was to ensure that residents had access to their regular medication. Residents were connected with the team either by a direct phone request or referral by the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) or other service workers. If medication was needed, then donning and doffing of PPE would be required to go up into the towers to directly assess and treat the needs of residents.
The management of the events on the ground at the Towers was subjected to criticism in certain sections of the media. Tim and Fraser both touched on the differences between the reality of the situation and that which was portrayed by the media. They highlighted that everybody on the ground was doing everything they could to make the best of an operation which had to be put together within a matter of hours to help protect and maintain the health needs of residents and the broader community. In all, the tower encompassed 3,000 residents, many of whom came from low socio-economic and migrant backgrounds and had a number of additional health co-morbidities. In particular, the pair highlighted the compassion and sacrifice made by the residents of the towers. These residents had been lockdown in their homes to help protect the broader community and were cooperative in working together with the health care team to provide the best outcomes for all involved, a point which was not highlighted in the media reporting.
From a nursing perspective, Tim and Fraser highlighted the pivotal role nurses are playing on the frontline of the pandemic in multiple settings such as testing clinics, hospital wards, intensive care units and in the community. They expressed their pride in being able to use their nursing skills, expertise and knowledge to make a difference to members of their local community.
“Personally, I trained because I wanted to give back to my community,” Fraser said in conclusion.
“I wanted to help the vulnerable and the elderly; being able to use the skill sets I obtained during my degree and graduate program to help my neighbours during an acute crisis situation made me very proud to be a nurse.”
“I started nursing so I could be of service to others,” Tim added.
“This was an opportunity for me to step out of my comfort zone and be part of a greater initiative – within what was quite a challenging scenario. I can only imagine it was similar to setting up a clinic in a ‘foreign aid’ situation! We had to think completely outside of the box. I was proud to be a part of it and to get the help to those residents who needed it.”