Donnico Barcelon calls Las Piñas General Hospital and Satellite Trauma Center his second home, where he has been working as registered nurse for the last seven years. He used to put in a tolerable eight-hour shift, but since the new coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, when the hospital began admitting more patients, he started logging in 12-hour shifts.
“For seven years, I always went to work with a happy heart. I know that I will be seeing my work friends, and I am helping people at the same time,” Barcelon said.
However, his positive disposition gets tested every day now. Barcelon has done the rounds of different departments in the hospital, working in the intensive care unit (ICU), then pediatrics ICU, emergency, surgical and medical. These days, he’s assigned to the pediatric ward, where many heartbreaking scenes take place, he said.
“Talking to the parents is the toughest part of our job. They cry and beg us to save their kid. It’s hard because no matter how good you are, it feels like you didn’t do your best, and you end up blaming yourself. I hate that part every time,” he said.
Barcelon said no matter their training in handling the worst cases daily, patients in isolation break his heart each time.
“Isolation is a different story. So, every time I see parents mourn, it feels like we didn’t do our best,” he said.
The stress and anxiety in the pediatric ward are “unbelievable,” he added.
When he gets home—he goes home every day, but stays away from common areas in the house—he encounters discrimination in his neighborhood. The “friendly” sari-sari store down the road now politely requests him to leave his cash on the counter in front. And when people see him in his nurse uniform, they run away from him.
“But the hardest part for me is distancing myself from my family. I can’t play with my niece; I can’t have long chats with my mom. I need to finish my dinner fast because I don’t want to stay long at the table. Those anxieties break me,” he said.
Part of his daily coping mechanism is to make sure the atmosphere in the nurses’ station in the ward is always light and cheerful. He likes to crack jokes and make his coworkers laugh.
But when the work exhaustion gets draining, the thought of his family and his partner keeps him going. He needs to hold on to positive thoughts to keep his sanity.
“Yes, I make sure that I have a happy heart before going to work. I always believe that happiness is contagious,” he said.