Martina uses frontline experiences to make a real difference

04 March 2021

Ever wondered what it would be like on the frontline' administering the COVID-19 Pfizer vaccine?

For first-year CQUniversity Doctor of Philosophy (Offshore) student' Martina Paletova' it has been the most rewarding' yet exhausting experience of her career to date.

The oncology nurse has helped vaccinate up to 6'000 people per day in Tel Aviv' Israel' since receiving her dose in December 2020.

"After one year of fear' there is now hope. People are waiting in line to get their vaccination' with smiles on their faces – it truly is an amazing atmosphere'" Martina said.

Martina vividly recalls the events of 2020 – many of which helped inform her current' and very timely' Ph.D. topic: Who is taking care of the nurse during the world pandemic?

"During the second wave' from September to October 2020' I left my day job in the bone marrow transplant ward to volunteer in the COVID-19 department – it was an unbelievable experience'" she said.

"I spent my time taking non-stop phone calls' reassuring family members' and answering as many questions as I could' all while wearing the cosmonaut suit and studying my Ph.D."

The work was exhausting' both physically and mentally' and left Martina and her nursing colleagues feeling fatigued.

"There were many nights I slept at the hospital' crashing wherever I found a spare bed'" she said.

"On the days I could make it home' I would either have to walk 5 km to and from the nearest bus shelter or pay for a taxi' given that we were in lockdown and transportation was limited.

"I spent more money on public transport than I earned and constantly worried about disease transmission as I worked for a hospital.

"On top of that' all of my self-care tools like gym' travelling' and chatting over coffee with friends were taken away from me' and the fact that I couldn't see family and friends made life hard.

"I was burning out towards the end. I had to push incredibly hard just to take a few days off' to allow myself some to time to recuperate."

It was the mental and physical toll of being on the frontline that led Martina to want to help other nursing professionals.

"During 2020' I saw talented nurses break down from exhaustion and question their actions' before ultimately leaving the profession that they worked so hard to enter'" Martina said.

"I know there are many studies out there about moral injury during a pandemic' but I want to develop fatigue prevention tools so that nurses like me can build resilience.

Amid the fatigue' study' and sleepless nights' Martina also experienced many memorable moments.

"In the COVID-19 department' we didn't also have time to assist people with basic tasks such as warming up food or making a phone call' so it was amazing to see how patients helped others'" she said.

"One moment that will stay with me is of a 90-year-old patient' who spent her admission walking up and down the hospital corridors' making tea and coffee for other patients.

"She would always approach me at the end of my shift and thank me for all that I had done – that's what kept me going."

As an advocate of the vaccine' Martina has extended her knowledge to her home country of Czech Republic.

"I have been on TV and in the local newspapers' explaining how it is possible to vaccinate 6'000 people in one day' at one hospital' and the digital data research we conduct for Pfizer in Israel'" she said.

"In the future' I hope that I can share my knowledge of new-found fatigue prevention tools with nursing professionals from around the world."