Nursing staff act as a protective and preventive shield against the transmission of any infection, including COVID-19, says Ebtisam Abdullah, Head Nurse at the Leabaib Health Center, under the Primary Health Care Corporation (PHCC).

She said that their nurses help protect the medical staff and all health centre visitors from possible contraction of coronavirus on a daily basis. This is achieved through a set of precautionary measures taken by nursing staff before patients walk into any health centres .

These measures include a quick desk test, checking of body temperatures, asking COVID-19-relevant questions, and taking note of any respiratory symptoms or symptoms similar to COVID-19, such as coughing, sore throat and fever.

According to Abdullah, visitors at all health centres are treated as suspected COVID-19 cases.

In the event any of the above symptoms are detected, the patient will be treated as a suspected COVID-19 case and asked to sanitise his or her hands and to wear a surgical mask. They will then be admitted into the isolation room immediately.

Following admission, nurses will carry out further precautionary measures by checking vital signs and performing the COVID-19 swabbing test. After the test, the nursing staff will explain the steps that the patient will need to take, including the quarantine procedure. Nurses will also ensure that patients complete the Undertaking Form, based on which he or she will be given a standard booklet from the Ministry of Public Health (MoPH), containing important guidelines which are to be used as reference during the quarantine period.

Once a suspected case is discharged from the isolation room, the nursing staff supervises the disinfection process as part of PHCC’s efforts in combating the spread of COVID-19.

According to Abdullah, nurses also follow up with home-quarantined patients.

Calls are made daily to offer patients support and to monitor their health condition, while answering any queries they might have with regards to their current health status.

Another significant role played by nurses is that of creating and spreading awareness about COVID-19 among patients. These include reminders on the importance of practising social distancing, as well as the need for regular hand sanitisation and the benefits of wearing a face mask.

She said that if a positive COVID-19 case is detected, they adopt all the measures outlined by MoPH.

First, a doctor will contact the patient and inform him or her of the test results. Then, a request for further tests are made using the patient’s database. Following this, the nursing staff will coordinate with the four centres that are allocated as COVID-19 quarantine facilities (Muaither, Rawdat Al Khail, Al Gharafah and Umm Slal) in order to carry out the required tests. Based on that, the patient will be transferred to a suitable quarantine facility.

To cover the global shortage of nurses and to meet the needs of health sectors worldwide after the COVID-19 outbreak, the World Health Organization (WHO) said there was an urgent need for an estimated 5.9 million nurses to help cope with the pandemic.

Like all other countries, Qatar faced a shortage of medical staff and in particular, nurses. Many were unable to return to work at the end of their annual leave due to the temporary suspension of flights. Additionally, PHCC health centres experienced a shortage of existing nurses when 30%  of its nursing staff were allocated to MoPH in support of the COVID-19 crisis plan.

Abdullah said that in an effort to overcome these challenges, PHCC was able to acquire skilled nurses on a temporary, urgent basis.

Their nurses also had to put in long hours at the health centres in an effort to battle the pandemic. It has not been easy, she said, but their sense of duty and responsibility towards their patients and Qatar, along with the support of many other groups and service providers, has helped them face the obstacles head-on.

We managed to contribute towards accomplishing the desired outcomes in confronting this pandemic, which we hope will soon come to an end.

For updates about COVID-19 in Qatar, visit covid19.moph.gov.qa. You can also check out the PHCC website, phcc.qa, for more information about their services.