The pandemic has been tough for everyone, but we all know it’s been particularly grueling for healthcare workers. Regardless of whether you’re a personal support worker, doctor, midwife, nurse or anyone else on the front lines, providing care during Covid-19 has been a taxing experience.
We caught up with Reumah Parmanand, a 25-year-old ER nurse in Ontario who, as a recent grad, has been working throughout the pandemic. We talked about stress, caring for patients and saving money.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
What inspired you to become a nurse?
“I did a biomedical degree at Brock [University in St. Catharines, Ont.] and, long story short, I didn’t like what I was doing. I didn’t want to be a doctor, for various reasons of giving up your life to your career. And, obviously, going through education takes a long time. So I ended up finishing and going on a medical missions trip with a bunch of emergency nurses and doctors. And I was like, ‘Wow, this is such an amazing opportunity.’ I went to Ecuador. I served in orphanages and in different schools for kids and adults and we gave free healthcare to them. Then I just got to know a lot of nurses. I always knew that I wanted to be in healthcare, but I didn’t know how I wanted to do it. And I’ve always thought about nursing, but it wasn’t ever my first choice. So after that trip, I ended up applying to be a nurse at York [University] and Seneca [College] and I got in.”
What has nursing been like during the pandemic?
“Most of the patients I saw were really scared. [They had] heightened anxiety a little bit more, because they’re isolated. We didn’t have any family members around; we couldn’t have patients sit with their loved ones and be reassured consistently. It was them and them alone. When we would care for them, we’d have to obviously explain everything to them. But what if they aren’t able to understand why we’re doing what we’re [doing] or what if they’re just completely incapable, and they’ve been bedridden, and their family’s not there?
“I think people didn’t realize how bad it really is. Because people kind of expect, ‘Oh, they’re just on like few tubes, they’re getting oxygen.’ But they’re literally dead weight, we are cleaning them, we’re pushing them, we’re moving them, we are turning them every two hours. We’re making sure they get their medications right on time, and they probably have four to five lines in one arm. You can imagine, and you’re lucky if they’re even awake to even process anything. Half of them are sedated, just praying to be healed.”
Typically, what are your hours like?
“Your body is so tired. It’s 12-hour shifts, four days a week. So you’ll do four days on and then have five days off, and they’ll kind of just repeat. People will say, ‘Oh your hours are so great. You have a full five days off.’ But they don’t realize we’re working the night shift before our five days off. So we don’t get home for our first day off until nine o’clock. Then you sleep until maybe one o’clock, two o’clock. And that whole day is gone, and you’re sleeping by 10pm that day to get your sleep back into order. And then by the next day, you’re relaxing, and you have the other days off and then you get back to work.”
What are some of the biggest challenges when it comes to nursing?
“How to handle losing a patient. Nursing school does not prepare you for this. I had to go through my own grief for me to understand how to deal with it as a nurse. I had an aunt that had breast cancer for 10 years and she would visit the hospital almost two or three times a week, and I was able to accompany her for a lot of that. So when I was involved with the care, I started nursing during that time. I was at the hospital with her and she knew so many people there, going through the treatment. I actually lost her the day I got hired for my position.”
How do you deal with stress or burnout?
“When you’re going through something like grief in your own home, and then you have to bounce back and show up the next day to work only for that to happen at work as well, nothing will prepare you for it. You just have to make sure you come home to people who are there for you, people who support you.”
What is the most important thing you’ve learned in your career so far?
“I think the most important thing is time management. On days that you’re at work, make sure you’re coming home and doing something fun for yourself. Make sure you’re taking the time out to care for yourself. I’ve been able to do that. So now that I’m coming home and not doing schoolwork, I have a good routine where I’m just kind of debriefing my day. I’ll take a shower. I’ll sit on my bed for a little bit and then go eat dinner. I find that helps me calm down.”
Do you have any advice for other young people looking to go into nursing?
“Make sure you love your job. I think especially for nursing, [you need] the passion to care for others. This is a huge, empathetic role, where you’re always putting someone else first. Sometimes you’re putting yourself last, or you’re not taking your breaks, things like that. Be ready to give up those things. Because if you don’t care for helping someone or seeing that your colleague needs help with something, you are going to hate it.”
How do you budget?
“Get a line of credit, because there’s a lot of expenses involved in helping you become a nurse. You have to pay for tuition, then you’re paying for scrubs, you’re paying for hospital parking. You need to register with the College of Nurses and it’s an initial fee of $360. Once you have your license, you’re paying another $360 and if you have to do a temporary license you’re paying $60. So be ready to fish out a few grand.”
Since you’re a new grad, do you have any advice on saving money?
“I would really suggest that once you do start making the money, definitely get line of credit, but also start an RRSP or a TFSA to save money. Learn stocks if you can and invest your money into things that you believe in. That was the best thing I did for myself during pandemic is educate myself on finances and understand on how I can allocate a little bit of my paycheck to something that’s actually growing. So an RRSP is great, because that helps you save for a house and pay for retirement, which is what my plan is now.”
What’s a piece of advice you’d give to our readers?
“I would love to normalize living with your parents. I know, they drive you crazy. But set boundaries! We are older, so that’s so fair. Set boundaries with what they are comfortable with.”
What do you love most about your job?
“I really want to stress having the passion for the job. Because I’ve seen people burn out, and that says a lot about your care. If you’re not there for your patients, you’re not advocating, you’re not realizing that, ‘Oh, maybe the doctor did something wrong.’ That will eat you alive, and you will hate being there for 12 hours.
“I really enjoy being around people. I think I’ve taken a more appreciation of going to work everyday because when I’m home, seeing all my family members and all my friends being stuck at home, during work from home. [Ultimately], the message I want to put out there is find your passion.”