A DAY IN THE LIFE OF AN MSF NURSE

An MSF nurse holds a young patient at refugee camp in Bangladesh © Vincenzo Livieri

An MSF nurse holds a young patient at refugee camp in Bangladesh © Vincenzo Livieri

An MSF nurse holds a young patient at refugee camp in Bangladesh © Vincenzo Livieri

This International Nurses Day, over 8,000 MSF nurses are hard at work all over the world, saving lives and providing medical aid where it's needed most.

To mark this day, we follow seven nurses for 24 hours on the frontline of humanitarian healthcare.

Read more about how their leadership, dedication and care make a real difference...

BEFORE WORK

IN MOCHA, YEMEN

Furaha Bazikanya Walumpumpu
Nurse/midwife

A group of MSF healthcare staff meet at our surgical hospital in Mocha, Yemen © Guillaume Binet/MYOP

A group of MSF healthcare staff meet at our surgical hospital in Mocha, Yemen © Guillaume Binet/MYOP

A group of MSF healthcare staff meet at our surgical hospital in Mocha, Yemen © Guillaume Binet/MYOP

I wake up at 5am. I have a shower and quickly eat breakfast, and by 7am I’m in the hospital ready to receive the handover from my colleagues on the night shift.  

Before I arrive in the hospital and start my ward round, I already anticipate that the emergency room will be very busy with patients with injuries from gunshots, landmine explosions, bomb explosions, and pregnant women.  

"Being an MSF nurse can be tough. We work long hours and the job can be emotionally and physically draining, but I love what I do."
Furaha Bazikanya Walumpumpu | Nurse/midwife

Yemen is a country at war. The health system has been destroyed. In Mocha, MSF runs the only facility for miles around. It’s the only hospital in the district providing free healthcare for the local population.  

Furaha performs an ultrasound scan on a pregnant woman that requires a c-section © Agnes Varraine-Leca/MSF

Furaha performs an ultrasound scan on a pregnant woman that requires a c-section © Agnes Varraine-Leca/MSF

Furaha performs an ultrasound scan on a pregnant woman that requires a c-section © Agnes Varraine-Leca/MSF

Before we set up the hospital in Mocha, women with obstetric emergencies had to travel six hours to Aden for medical attention. Many did not survive the journey. So, MSF decided to step in and help these women, saving lives.  

Being an MSF nurse can be tough. We work long hours and the job can be emotionally and physically draining, but I love what I do. Being able to provide proper, timely, and free care, to people who need it most is a privilege.  

Although my body and mind are tired, my heart is full. 

MORNING

IN GAZA, OCCUPIED PALESTINIAN TERRITORY

Diane Robertson Bell
Nursing activity manager

An MSF nurse helps treat a patient injured by sniper fire during protests in Gaza © Simon Rolin

An MSF nurse helps treat a patient injured by sniper fire during protests in Gaza © Simon Rolin

An MSF nurse helps treat a patient injured by sniper fire during protests in Gaza © Simon Rolin

Our accommodation is only about five minutes away from the office, so we’re able to walk to work each morning and dodge the chaotic traffic of Gaza.

We pass buzzing shops and restaurants, but I begin to think of the city as a very claustrophobic space for those who are unable to leave.

"Walking into an MSF clinic in Gaza you will see a lot of young men with crutches, with external fixators, with walking sticks"
Diane Robertson Bell | Nursing activity manager

Diane Robertson Bell (middle) with colleagues in Gaza © Diane Robertson Bell

The working day starts with a meeting for all staff. We also have a security briefing where we find out if there were any bombing or shelling incidents the night before, or if there are any planned protests for the day ahead.  

I go to my computer and look at emails and complete any necessary paperwork, but as soon as I’ve finished, I try to get out and visit the clinics, operating theatres and the inpatient ward.  

Walking into an MSF clinic in Gaza you will see a lot of young men with crutches, with external fixators, with walking sticks. In fact, you might hear them first. It’s a noisy place with lots of chatter.  

Listen to Diane talk about treating trauma patients in Gaza 

Diane Robertson Bell (middle) with colleagues in Gaza © Diane Robertson Bell

Diane Robertson Bell (middle) with colleagues in Gaza © Diane Robertson Bell

Diane Robertson Bell (middle) with colleagues in Gaza © Diane Robertson Bell

MIDDAY

IN PULKA, NIGERIA

Shaibu Godfrey
Nursing team supervisor

Displaced people waiting for a distrubituon of supplies in Pulka town © Igor Barbero/MSF

Displaced people waiting for a distrubituon of supplies in Pulka town © Igor Barbero/MSF

Displaced people waiting for a distrubituon of supplies in Pulka town © Igor Barbero/MSF

I arrive at Pulka hospital and my day starts with a ward round so I can build an overview of how our patients have been overnight.

I also use this opportunity to hear about any of the challenges my colleagues faced during the night and to prioritise any issues that need immediate follow up.  

"Liaising with different colleagues is all part of giving the patient the best care we can render"
Shaibu Godfrey | Nursing team supervisor

A big part of my job involves engaging with my colleagues from other departments.  

MSF nursing team supervisor Shaibu in Pulka @ MSF

MSF nursing team supervisor Shaibu in Pulka @ MSF

MSF nursing team supervisor Shaibu in Pulka @ MSF

For example, if we have a patient who requires psychosocial support, I liaise with the mental health manager to ensure that they are offered counselling. If we have a patient who has reproductive health issues, I engage with the midwife manager who can help plan a way forward. If we have any challenges with medical supplies, I work with the pharmacy team to improve the system.  

Liaising with different colleagues is all part of giving the patient the best care we can render. 

Shaibu shares the rewards of nursing care

AFTERNOON

IN KUTUPALONG, BANGLADESH

Sophie Hjort
Head nurse

A boy walks through Kutupalong refugee camp in Bangladesh - mobile © Patrick Rohr

A boy walks through Kutupalong refugee camp in Bangladesh - mobile © Patrick Rohr

A woman walks up a hill covered in makeshift shelters at Kutupalong refugee camp in Bangladesh

My afternoons vary as my role is very broad, but almost all of my responsibilities have to do with people - recruiting staff, collaborating with other organisations, delivering trainings. 

One thing I am focusing on now is helping the nurses in my team take more responsibility for things like documentation and managing wards - knowing that their ideas and opinions are equally as important as others.  

"Throughout history this has been really important for all nurses" 
Sophie Hjort | Head nurse

MSF community health workers explain how to prevent the spread of disease Antonio © Faccilongo

I think this is a very important area as they see the patients most and so they are in a good position to advocate for them. Throughout history this has been really important for all nurses.  

Hear Sophie talk about our changing response to the Rohingya crisis: 

MSF community health workers explain how to prevent the spread of disease  Antonio © Faccilongo

MSF community health workers explain how to prevent the spread of disease Antonio © Faccilongo

MSF community health workers explain how to prevent the spread of disease Antonio © Faccilongo

END OF THE DAY

IN KARAKALPAKSTAN, UZBEKISTAN

Jerome Dael
Nurse activity manager

MSF's office in Nukus, Uzbekistan © Amelia Freelander/MSF

MSF's office in Nukus, Uzbekistan © Amelia Freelander/MSF

MSF's office in Nukus, Uzbekistan © Amelia Freelander/MSF

This afternoon I spent my time working at the clinical trial project in Karakalpakstan, in the north western part of Uzbekistan.  

TB PRACTECAL is a research project which aims to identify a new shorter, effective, and injection-free treatment regimen for multidrug-resistant tuberculosis.  

There are two sites for the clinical trial: one in Nukus, the capital city, and one just outside the city around a 20 to 30-minute car ride from the main office. Roads can sometimes be difficult, especially outside the city. It is basically desert, with extremely hot, dusty summers and icy cold winters. It can be very muddy during the winter when it rains. 

"Before I finish work for the day, I do one final office round to make sure that none of the nurses are stuck struggling with anything"
Jerome Dael | Nurse activity manager
Medical research nurse Jerome in Karakalpakstan @ Jerome Dael

Medical research nurse Jerome in Karakalpakstan @ Jerome Dael

Medical research nurse Jerome in Karakalpakstan @ Jerome Dael

Working in the clinical trial office, I always hear the sound of the printer or the copying machine, as we have many documents and forms to print, to complete, get signed, and scanned, and finally report to the investigators, sponsors, and the Ministry of Health.  

Before I finish work for the day, I do one final office round to make sure that none of the nurses are stuck struggling with anything. I always make sure that they go home and have some family time and time to rest. However, if the task is urgent, I give them my support and join them in completing it. 

Jerome reads a poem he wrote: "We are: Nurses in medical research"

EVENING

ON BOARD THE AQUARIUS

Aoife Ní Mhurchú
Vulnerable persons focal point

A group of people rescued from international waters are transfered to the Aquarius ©  Federico Scoppa

A group of people rescued from international waters are transfered to the Aquarius © Federico Scoppa

A group of people rescued from international waters are transfered to the Aquarius © Federico Scoppa

No two evenings were the same on Aquarius and I could never anticipate which of my nursing skills would be most in demand. 

Some evenings were spent looking at the horizon, willing for the boat in distress to be found, and for those people to be safely onboard with us. 

"When a rescue was complete, and people were safely on board the Aquarius, the work was fast paced and dynamic. The demands on the medical team were great."
Aoife Ní Mhurchú | Vulnerable persons focal point

Another evening was spent preparing for a ‘mass casualty’ situation as the floodlights of a helicopter illuminated the sea surface in search of bodies during a critical rescue where people were in the water. 

Aoife training on board the Aquarius while on route to the search and rescue area © Federico Scoppa

When a rescue was complete, and people were safely on board the Aquarius, the work was fast paced and dynamic. The demands on the medical team were great. 

The sickest people were tended to earlier in the day and generally I spent many evenings in the clinic tending to wound care.  

We had patients with wounds from violence related injuries, from skin infections due to the unsanitary and overcrowded living conditions in Libya, and from fuel burns sustained as a result of the toxic mix of spilled fuel and salt water in the bottom of the rubber boat. This toxic mix causes a painful chemical burn which damages any exposed human tissue. 

Aoife explains why nursing is more than medical care

Aoife training on board the Aquarius while on route to the search and rescue area © Federico Scoppa

Aoife training on board the Aquarius while on route to the search and rescue area © Federico Scoppa

Aoife training on board the Aquarius while on route to the search and rescue area © Federico Scoppa

NIGHT SHIFT

IN BENTIU, SOUTH SUDAN

Sarah Hoare
Head nurse

Bentiu camp hosts approximately 115,000 internally displaced people in South Sudan © Peter Bauza

Bentiu camp hosts approximately 115,000 internally displaced people in South Sudan © Peter Bauza

Bentiu camp hosts approximately 115,000 internally displaced people in South Sudan © Peter Bauza

The working day officially finishes at 5pm but the evening is often busy as well.  

We take turns to do on-call shifts to support the nursing night team in case there is an emergency, medication needed, or advice on something like a wound dressing. 

"I love being a part of this project. What we’re doing is literally saving lives and improving the lives of other people."
Sarah Hoare | Head nurse

Once I’ve made sure that I’m no longer needed in the hospital I go and have a very cold shower to cool myself down so that I’ll be able to sleep for the night.  

Children in Bentiu camp make toys from the mud © Peter Bauza

Children in Bentiu camp make toys from the mud © Peter Bauza

Children in Bentiu camp make toys from the mud © Peter Bauza

I love being a part of this project. What we’re doing is literally saving lives and improving the lives of other people.  

I go to sleep with the feeling that I'm contributing to something that is very worthwhile. 

Listen to Sarah talk about what it's like in the hospital at night