As the UK celebrates the 73rd anniversary of the National Health Service (NHS), the iGlobal catches up with another one of its many British Indian heroes on the healthcare frontlines of the nation.
Dr Nilanjana Haque, a General Practitioner (GP) with 20 years of experience in the UK, migrated from India in 1997. Even back in the country of her birth, she worked with patients at the grassroots level and has built a reputation as an extremely empathic doctor over the years.
Dr Haque, MBBS MRCGP DRCOG DFSHRH, views herself as a “people’s person”. Always an active of Macmillan Cancer Support, she organised various fundraising cultural programmes within the community. Last year, Dr Haque donated all her hair to raise funds for the , which has been hard hit by the pandemic.
She reflects on a tough few months for NHS GPs: “I have been working under extreme work pressure while reading in the press that doctors are not seeing patients face to face. This was true only during the first lockdown, and things have changed radically since.
“We see patients face to face, which means stringent aseptic measures, both at the practice and personally. We have been testing ourselves at least twice weekly for the last few months and will continue to do so.”
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Can you please share your experience of getting the vaccine?
My vaccine experience was very pleasant. It was booked by one of the reception staff at my practice. I went down with my husband to the centre. We were greeted warmly, identities checked, history and allergies cross-checked, and then we got the much-awaited jab.
It was so well administered; I did not feel a thing. After that, we happily waited the customary 15 minutes in the designated waiting area. I was slightly achy later that evening and needed paracetamol, but that is all. The second was on a Friday, and afterwards, I was very sleepy, so I slept it off over the weekend.
What is your message to those in the community who may have doubts about getting vaccinated?
The is the best thing since sliced bread, so please, please take it at the earliest. We might still get Covid after taking the vaccine, but it will be a mild self-limiting infection. But without the vaccine, we are at very high risk as no one really knows how our bodies will cope with the virus.
The pandemic is still happening and is one of the biggest challenges faced by mankind in recent times.
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What are some coping mechanisms that help you balance the extra work pressures, stress, and tragedy through the pandemic?
This is a time of reckoning. We need all hands on deck to fight this virus and look after our families, patients, and neighbours.
I have been listening to music, talking to friends on Zoom and walking my dog, among other things, to help deal with the pressures at work. I also play scrabble and listen to old Bollywood songs to help me unwind at the end of a long day.
I have been staying up at night worrying about an ill patient or an unwell relative. But I think this is true for so many of us in these unprecedented times. While I have been looking after my patients, my family has had to deal with my absence. This has been very stressful, both practically and emotionally. I am extremely about my elderly parents and family members back home, knowing pretty well that I will not be able to travel to see them at short notice if the need arose.
Many of my close friends and colleagues have lost their elderly parents back home to covid and could not travel to say their last goodbyes.
I find this very difficult and have tried to support the unfortunate friend/colleague through this challenging time. During these dark times, my biggest coping strategy is to pray, , and reconnect with the Almighty, once every day.
What would be your message to those considering a career with the NHS?
For those planning a future in the NHS, I would say: go for it! The teamwork and the sheer joy of helping people in distress trumps every other feeling in the world. When patients recover and go home, it is the biggest prize in the world.
Without a shadow of a doubt, no other profession has this level of job satisfaction.