Healthcare: Meet a Chief Nurse in Taichung, Taiwan

Interviewer: Eric Shiu; June 13, 2020

Interviewee's name has been removed for privacy.

Chief nurses assist in the local health of communities by managing shifts and encouraging maximum medical care (ICN).

Could you tell us about yourself and your occupation? How does your occupation impact the local community?

Hello. I am a Chief Nurse working at a medical center in Taichung, Taiwan. The medical center I work at specializes in children’s care as well as pregnancy and delivery. My occupation impacts the local health of children and new mothers who are having kids during this pandemic. I also have to make sure all the nurses are able to work at reasonable times and encourage them to give the children maximum medical care.

How do you manage your nurses’ shifts?

In Taiwan, all medical professionals are placed under a four-hour work shift due to COVID-19. The implication of this system was to keep medical professionals from overexerting themselves during the pandemic, which is why I have to keep this in mind when creating the shift schedule for my hospital.

Are the nurses, including yourself, concerned about safety during this pandemic?

During the start of the pandemic some of the nurses, including me, were afraid of the possibility of contracting COVID-19 because of past experiences with the SARS epidemic and because of COVID being almost undetectable within our patients. As time went on; however, we began adapting with the constant pressure of being infected during work and started reminding everyone within the hospital to wash their hands and wear face masks.

Have any nurses decided to leave because of the pressure from this undetectable virus?

There were a few nurses who were extremely fearful of the virus but none of our staff requested leave during this time. To me, this is because we understood the need for medical staff at a time like this and decided to stay to attend to these patients. We are sworn in to help all patients during this time.

The children who are not willing to take the vaccine are at more of a risk to be infected by diseases. The families that delay these vaccines would be noted down and continuously encouraged them to come and take the vaccine.

"We are sworn in to help all patients during this time."

How has COVID-19 affected the functioning of your organization? What worries you most regarding the effect COVID-19 has/will have on your occupation?

The only thing would be precautions with patients as well as having nurses be on duty for making sure all patients wear masks and have their temperature checked.

Would you take the vaccine for COVID when it first arrives?

Honestly, if the first batch of COVID-19 vaccines were made I would be a little wary of the vaccine being produced too quickly. That said because I am a medical professional, we are forced to take at least 85% of the vaccine to be able to work. Technically we can drop out of taking the vaccine if we truly feel that this is necessary; however, this would result in being forced to work in an isolated environment.

Because you work at a pregnancy and birthing center also, I was wondering if COVID had affected any procedures or given fears for pregnant women who are coming in for regular appointments.

Luckily most mothers are still coming in for regular checks, though some of them still decide to delay these appointments in fear of their baby’s health. For the birthing process, we try to keep it as sanitary as possible to ensure no one is infected with COVID after delivery. We are also unable to allow relatives to come in and visit the newborn or the mother during and after labor and delivery. Due to this, we have been bombarded with complaints from relatives who find this precaution unnecessary and unbelievably offensive.

Since a lot of people were worried of being infected in hospitals, has there been any decrease in the amount of patients?

Oh yes. We have seen a lot of parents delaying children’s appointments; however, as after May more and more parents are becoming more willing to come in for regular health exams. With these delays, some children are not keeping up with regular vaccines making them prone to be infected by these diseases.

Though the fear of COVID-19 causes most of the decrease in appointments, I believe the decrease is also because of COVID-19 forcing people to build better health habits, we have seen a decrease in children coming in for fevers and stomach bugs.

In my opinion this little positive aspect of COVID-19 is actually very beneficial. In the past whenever we medical professionals attempted to help our patients develop these basic health habits they were normally broken, but now with COVID-19 it seems that everyone is working on their health habits to the point of even sanitizing door knobs and groceries!

"... now with COVID-19 it seems that everyone is working on their health habits to the point of even sanitizing door knobs and groceries!"

How does your hospital operate during COVID-19?

Well we now have mandatory nurses stationed in the front of the hospital to take temperatures of people who are entering the hospital. We tend to make sure no one is over 37 degrees celsius as well as making sure to wear full body Person Protective Equipment to make sure we aren’t infected while taking temperatures.

When taking the patients in they are met with one medical professional who would watch them at all times while they went for their appointment, which could potentially cause people to have to wait before entering the hospital when there are too many patients coming in at a time.

We tend to have tents stationed outside our hospital for people who are receiving medicine for long term diseases. The reason for this is because we do not want anyone who are suffering from long term diseases to also be infected with COVID-19 because their chances of surviving might be slimmer than others with better immune systems.

If there’s anyone who is infected with COVID-19 we will call another larger hospital to take the infected patient by ambulance. The reason for this is because our hospital is unequipped with the correct equipment to deal with COVID-19 cases. If in the future these larger hospitals reach capacity for people infected with COVID-19, we will be a temporary location for new infected patients.

I know that in the United States hospitals aren’t taking appointments for fevers or flues, is your hospital still looking at people with high fevers and other diseases at this time?

For us, yes. In our area, COVID-19 isn’t as destructive as it is in the United States so local hospitals can still spare personnels to examine patients with regular diseases.

If you are willing to share, how has COVID-19 affected you individually and your family?

Well… COVID has mainly raised our fears of being infected and unable to work. In reality, COVID hasn’t really impacted my family’s way of life, as other families have been impacted, but we do now have to wash our hands and shower more frequently when coming back home. I guess for our family it is mostly the fear which causes us to live in a more solitary, isolated, lifestyle for the time being.

What do you believe others can do to help ease problems encountered by your organization?

Definitely wearing some sort of face mask and regularly washing hands would help us a lot. We also would like parents to still make appointments for their children for illnesses.

Are there any other comments you would like to share?

I feel like we should start looking at the positive benefits that COVID-19 has contributed to our society. Though this disease is annoying, we have finally started building regular healthy habits like washing our hands, which in turn decreases all the cases for flu, colds, fevers, stomach bugs, etc. I want everyone to keep up the hard work with protecting themselves against COVID and staying healthy. With everyone’s help globally I believe we can finally stomp out this bug once and for all.