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East End Nurse cares for Bengali community during pandemic

Royal London Hospital Nurse reflects on early life, journey to nursing to care for her community during Pandemic

Early life of Bushara

Bushara is one of eight children: seven sisters and one brother. Her parents came to the UK in the early eighties.  Her eldest sister was born in Bangladesh. All other siblings were born in Tower Hamlets.  She always lived in the East  End.  Initially they lived in Shadwell Gardens but since then lived around Globe Road, Bethnal Green. She explains that her family:

‘lived as squatters and it came to a point where eventually the council gave them a council property. so I've been living here since 15 years now, I think.’

Her parents did not speak English. To address the gap Bushara and her siblings learnt to speak Bengali to communicate with them.   She went to Central Foundation School. Once she finished studying at School and then college, she started working at a local Job Centre. She kept on working there even after she got married in 2015.   

Married life

‘My father-in-law and we lived together for about two years of which one year he spent in Bangladesh, but he passed away. And then my mother-in-law lived with us until 2013. I think she died in 2013.’ 

Bushara explained that her in laws had a tradition outlook. They weren't not expecting their  daughter-in-law to work. Her situation changed once she had children:

'I had my first child and then I was off and then I had my second child and then I went back  part-time and then I had to be  about for a three year ago. Um, and I had my daughter, so my eldest son he's 13, my second son he's 12 and my daughter is eight.’ 

Journey to nursing

Bushara felt the working culture at the job  centre is changing.  When she joined she felt she was helping her community to look for work but soon the culture had become too target driven:

‘It was more target driven and I felt like I wasn't helping people as much as I should. And I've always had this passion for nursing.’ 

With support from her husband, she pursued a three year degree in nursing. It was split into two halves whereby 50% of the course was academic and 50% learning on the job on a placement. 

At  first Bushara would help patients who have lung disease.  Should would also see patients who have  heart failure or had heart attacks. 

‘They come to us, it's an acute medical ward. I don't do surgery. It's not surgical. It's very full on.’

Bushara has now established her practice at the Royal London Hospital  in Tower Hamlets. 

‘And I feel like I give back to the community because working at the Royal London hospital. We do have a lot of people from the Bangladeshi community there. And I feel like I bridge that gap. So we have so many aunties and uncles that don't speak English and I always advocate for them and they love it. And I love it as well.’

Initial phase of the pandemic

During the initial period of the pandemic everyone was feeling uncertain as they make full preparation for  what they can to protect themselves and others.

‘ And we asked, including the doctors, including design managers - how are we going to do this? What are we going to do with our first patients that come so slowly? We just started discharging our patients because we knew it was coming quite close. So I think it was mid March or towards the end of March. We had discharged majority of our patients and the one that was sitting on our ward.’ 

‘ So we had our first influx of patients and, initially it was daunting. It was scary because we hear people dying from Covid. We thought this is going to happen to us as well…it was so intense cause obviously we had to wear the PPE and to be working inside rooms. You can imagine you go in with PPE…you have to take all that off and go into the next patient with a new set of PPE. So that's how we worked.’

Bushara would go one to say that when the patients were getting better they would go to a different ward  to prepare them to be discharged.  There were patients were need to be taken to the critical care team. 

‘They were readily available with the time we have consultants on the ward, we had all our doctors on the ward, you know? Um, and the thing about it is patients so quickly, you know, one literally takes 10 minutes. It was so busy. It was, it was mad.’

Bushara was also feeling exhausted because she was also dealing with  palliative patients.  Seeing people die was becoming a reoccurring  theme.

‘Every one of us felt we had patients that died with us without their family being present. And it was horrible, horrible, honestly!… My first patient that died. I still remember him to this day. .. And before he left.. He's like, oh, he smiles. And he said, I just want to go home.’

During the peak of the pandemic she she dealt with at least three or four deaths in a day.

Bushara and community

Bushara and her family felt they have to keep themselves isolated from the rest of the community because she was in a Covid ward and she felt she didn't want to put anyone else at risk. Yet, keeping themselves isolated did not prevent her husband from catching Covid. 

‘I was exposing Covid to my husband and kids. My husband was positive. He got tested, his test was positive. He had fever and he was okay then. He had slight shortness of breath, but nothing too much.  I just had a headache.  My test came back negative. So I don't believe it was negative. We isolated for 14 days.’


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