THE TOLL – Head On

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Karen—Maternal and child health nurse
Maternal and child health
Metropolitan Melbourne

I am a maternal and child health nurse. I had an early warning that COVID-19 was coming because my daughter was working as a paramedic in London when COVID hit. She saw the devastation and death firsthand—including the deaths of healthy young people and some young paramedics. It was a frightening time, especially knowing there were no vaccinations available.

When COVID hit Australia, we had no PPE at work. Eventually, disposable gloves and face shields became available, but we had no masks for quite some time. I was worried about getting COVID and passing it on to vulnerable loved ones.

Although stressful and scary, I was so grateful to have a job, mostly still in maternal and child health centres, along with some time working from home, phoning families for consults with older children.

I saw so much stress as families looked after their babies and children. Parents were often working from home, schooling their children by remote learning. Some went through job losses and many had mental health issues—it was psychologically and emotionally exhausting.

For the first time we had to ask people not to attend appointments if they were unwell which some people didn’t like to hear.

The pressure at work was compounded by the anti-vaxxers and conspiracy theorists. It was a hard time to get through, especially living in the most locked-down city, not seeing loved ones, wearing masks to have a walk, having a curfew, needing permits to go to work and going no further than five kilometres from home. The pressure was intense.

I am glad to be past it. I worked throughout the pandemic and it took its toll. Now, I have cut down on my workdays as I want to stay enthusiastic and fresh in a job that is so rewarding and that I love.