6 doctors and nurses on how coronavirus is affecting their countries

From Russia to Italy, Nigeria and India, this is what it’s like to be a young medic working on the frontlines of COVID-19 healthcare

The emotional and physical toll of the coronavirus outbreak is weighing down hard on most of us. But for doctors, nurses, and other medical staff, the stress and strain enters another sphere of intensity entirely.

Firstly, there are the extra hours, the onslaught of patients, and the added precautions that come with working through a pandemic, coupled with the fear of contracting the virus and anxiety of contaminating loved ones if you do. Add into the mix what the BBC reports as the threat of having to make “agonising choices over who gets to who gets potentially life-saving treatments”, and the situation quickly becomes more daunting – especially for those who are newly qualified. Thousands of young medical students across the world are being fasttracked through their graduations and training processes to be deployed.

As the people on the frontlines, doctors and nurses need our support right now (here’s one way to donate to the NHS with our poster campaign contributing to Bart’s Charity), and are some of the most up to speed with how the virus is progressing around the world. With that in mind, as part of our #AloneTogether campaign we asked six young doctors and nurses from six countries – Italy, India, New Zealand, Russia, Spain, and Nigeria – what they are witnessing in their hospitals right now, how the virus is affecting them on a personal level, and what would be most helpful in terms of supporting medical professionals in their locality. They also tell us their hopes and fears for the near future.


“I am a cardiology fellow in San Matteo Hospital. Our region, Lombardy, in northern Italy, was the first and most affected area in Europe. My hospital was where the first European COVID-19 patient was hospitalised and cured. Day-to-day life is totally disrupted at the hospital. All non-urgent operations and visits are postponed and entire hospitals were reconverted for the sole care of COVID-19 patients. Only a few large hospitals carry on emergency procedures. All doctors, nurses and healthcare professionals here are working more and longer shifts and wear heavy and uncomfortable masks, glasses and other protections that cover our bodies and hide our emotions. 

It was very scary at first, as every day was worse than the former. Also at home, when trying to relax and forget, every half an hour the sound of an ambulance in the silence of the quarantined city brought back the alarm. Italy has basically shut down, which is creating economical and social tension. On the other hand, the quarantine has brought many Italians who worked and studied abroad back to their homeland and families and I hope this might be a nice occasion to stay together (at home!) and reinforce the bonds with our loved ones.

Now in Italy it seems we are at a flat point, and this is encouraging and means that quarantine works. It is still dangerous, especially because we are realising that many people with the virus are totally asymptomatic and my main concern is bringing this disease home from work. My fear is also that if people give up too early our hospitals will be overcrowded again and this would lead to a new, longer quarantine. And mean new deaths. We can win this battle but only if we can control the pace of the pandemic. Otherwise, it will be the pandemic that controls the pace of our lives.”


“My name is Doctor Agni Kumar Bose. I’m currently working as a dermatology resident doctor at King Edward Memorial Hospital, Bombay. Coronavirus has really hit us all hard. Everyone’s leaves have been cancelled and it’s all hands on deck right now. All departments are being mobilised regardless of their specialities and everyone is being transferred left, right and centre not just to the ICU, quarantine wards, and the emergency medical services, but even across the city to hotels, other hospitals, airports where foreign nationals are being quarantined and treated. People are working around the clock, 24/7. It is a very daunting and Herculean task to contain the spread of the disease. 

My entire country is under lockdown. India has never taken such drastic steps before wherein we have literally shut down the entire country for 36 days. A lot of our migrant population and daily wage workers are starving and there has been a massive exodus of them leaving the cities. It is quite a chaotic situation here. Not to mention the economy crashing and the stocks crashing. Our sheer population makes me little nervous, too. We live in a country of 1.3 billion humans. Even if just one per cent of all Indians were to be infected, that roughly translates into 13 million cases of COVID-19. We honestly do not have enough hospital beds or health care workers to take care of 13 million patients at one time. 

How can people help? Well please stay at home! We stay at work for you, you please stay at home for us. Social isolation and distancing is honestly the only resort that we have to fight against the spread of the virus. But other than that, we would really appreciate it if we got more personal protective equipment and gear. So many cases are coming up and so much human power has been deployed, that we are running out of kits. We are currently taking care of sick patients with little or no personal protection. So if anyone has any contacts or is willing to donate; medical equipment is what we need.”


“I am about to start work as a PGY1 house officer. PGY1 stands for ‘Post-Graduate Year 1’, and ‘house officer’ is an official term for a qualified junior doctor practising under supervision in a hospital. To put it simply – this will be my first placement as a qualified doctor after finishing medical school! Due to the current pandemic, I decided to move my placement forward to begin work as soon as possible. I am terrified. But we abide by a Hippocratic oath that binds all us in service to the community, to each other and to ourselves. Even my retired mother has been asked to come back into work as a doctor. 

My placement details are not yet finalised, but my understanding is that the most help is needed on General Medical wards, ICU and Respiratory Specialisations. Part of my preparation has been to study up on advanced life-saving skills and resuscitation. I want to be as prepared as possible for emergencies. As one of the more junior positions in a team, I need to be a solid supporting role for the senior staff. Doctors and nurses in hospitals have been overworked and are anxious. Patients are anxious too, I heard there have been issues around patients and families stealing the protective gear from the public hospitals to take home for themselves. I am concerned about the millions of people who are affected during this pandemic, but I am also concerned about our essential workers’ wellbeing. 

Our country has handled the outbreak well and lockdown is now easing with spread of the virus stemmed for the time being. Partly because New Zealand has a public healthcare system which differs significantly from the privatised healthcare in The United States. On a whole, I think this enables New Zealanders to have better access to healthcare however there are still issues around testing and healthcare providers being overworked. But at least our government has acted swiftly and responded with the appropriate measures to protect New Zealanders. Now people just need to stay indoors, wash their hands, be kind and check-in with each other.”

“I am concerned about the millions of people who are affected during this pandemic, but I am also concerned about our essential workers’ wellbeing”


“My work as a physician has become more challenging under COVID-19 circumstances. First of all, for appointments, we are required to wear protective clothing which consists of disposable aprons, gloves, respirators, and glasses – wearing this makes the body overheat and it’s more difficult to breathe. Secondly, doctors are facing more patients, a big number of whom are requesting home visits. Patients are all in emotional distress after following the news and social media, and even the healthy ones start finding symptoms in themselves such as difficulty in breathing or fever and asking if they have coronavirus. We try to calm them down, ask them to stay home, prescribe symptomatic treatment and monitor the patient’s health.

Personally, I feel good and ready to work as much as necessary and don’t have any respiratory symptoms. I monitor my temperature before leaving for work, also on arrival to work our temperature is taken and recorded daily. But as far as I’m aware, my colleagues, physicians in other specialities and institutions sadly don’t have enough face masks, respirators, disposable aprons, or gloves, meaning there is a risk of infection when encountering a COVID-19 case.

This is concerning, but generally, a lot of hospitals are reorganising themselves for treating this infection by adding isolation units, ICUs, ventilators, CT scanners. I believe right now it is very important to follow quarantine measures.”


“I am a nurse working in an Intensive Care Unit (ICU). Before the coronavirus outbreak spread, my life work was much calmer. The shifts were way shorter, but above all, they were not as stressful as they are now. Now, it is necessary for us to take double shifts, since a great number of co-workers are getting infected with the virus and their shifts need to be covered regardless. It is necessary for us, as well, to be constantly dressed in a scuba gear-like dress, plus layers and layers of protection, something which is really stifling and makes working really difficult. Patients are currently in need of more precise care than before and we must watch over them constantly, being more careful than ever.

This situation is making us go through really high stress, mentally as well as physically. Theses stress levels go beyond anything we normally experience on an average day at work before the outbreak, and therefore, go beyond what we are used to. Of course, we are worried about the whole situation. We are constantly facing the virus and we are at all times in direct contact with it. Thus, there is always the risk of getting infected with it. Nevertheless, we cannot be thinking about that at all times because we would not be able to do our job.

Spain is now under a state of alarm, an extremely special measure our young democracy has only had twice, the first time due to the air traffic controllers’ strike in 2010. This state of alarm has shut down the country completely since March 24. The current situation is pretty surreal, especially for a country that is known for doing its life mainly on the streets. But something that makes me feel hopeful right now is that we have an incredible health system, reflected in the way COVID-19 patients are being looked after. Moreover, I am grateful that Spain has a healthcare system which is completely public and free, amidst this completely unforeseen situation.”

“I am fearful because Nigeria currently does not have enough infectious disease hospitals with state-of-the-art equipment”


“I am currently working as a Research Scientist and PhD Fellow in Molecular Biology and Genomics at the African Centre of Excellence for Genomics of Infectious Diseases (ACEGID) Redeemer’s University, Nigeria. I work day and night to carry out tests on suspected COVID-19 samples brought to the lab and also use advanced genomics tools to try to understand and unravel the genetic diversity of the virus. We receive samples from six Nigerian states and this can be overwhelming – as a result, I haven’t had any time to do my personal PhD research work. As a scientist and researcher, I’m pleased that I get to use my skills to help in improving the healthcare system of my country and save the lives of so many of my fellow Nigerians. This really makes me proud and makes me want to do more. However, I was hoping to finish my PhD this year but with the pandemic currently having no end in sight, I’ve had to put this on hold. 

As of the 29 April 2020, there are 1,532 cases of coronavirus reported in Nigeria and 44 deaths. A number of Nigerian states are currently on lockdown and social distancing practices are being emphasised all over the country. Due to the lockdown, the economy of the country as a whole is being negatively affected. Residents of the country, especially those living in the poorest areas, are experiencing hunger and on top of that, people’s security seems to be at risk as in some areas unemployed youths are trying to find every means possible to survive.

I am fearful because Nigeria currently does not have enough infectious disease hospitals with state-of-the-art equipment to handle a pandemic like COVID-19 and also there are not enough well-trained medical and laboratory personnel to handle the current surge of the disease in the country. I, however, feel hopeful because the Nigerian Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) has been doing a fantastic job so far equipping more laboratories and hospitals all over the country to be able to carry out diagnosis and also training more medical personnel so that those on the frontline are not overwhelmed.

We need testing materials and kits as there are currently limited testing kits available in the country. Personal protective equipment (PPE) is also highly needed as a lot of healthcare workers in the country are carrying out tests or attending to patients without the necessary PPE, thereby exposing themselves. Finally, compensation in every form, especially financial, will be greatly appreciated. As a human race, we’ve survived more deadly pandemics in the past – like the Spanish Flu and the Bubonic Plague – so I’m hopeful that we will also defeat COVID-19.”