Nurses’ Day

No hugs, no kisses... for now

Senior staff nurse Nathanael Tan keeps a distance from his wife and two young sons so that he will not unknowingly put them in danger. ST PHOTO: GAVIN FOO


Senior staff nurse, National University Hospital, Emergency Medicine Department

It has been seven months since Mr Nathanael Tan, 29, has held his sons - who are aged one and three - close.

"No hugs, no kisses. It is very emotionally distant for my two kids, especially because they like getting goodnight hugs and morning kisses," said Mr Tan, a senior staff nurse at the National University Hospital's Emergency Medicine Department (EMD).

Being in the first line of defence against Covid-19, Mr Tan has attended to EMD patients who were later found to be infected with the coronavirus.

Although he is dressed in personal protective equipment at work, maintaining a distance from his family gives him further reassurance that he is not unknowingly putting them in danger.

After showering in the hospital before heading home, Mr Tan would take a second shower at home before retiring to a separate bedroom next to his wife and children's.

Mr Tan's older son, who is scared of thunder, used to snuggle against him for comfort.

"It's the rainy season now and at night when there is thunder, he will cry out for me and I can't do anything. I can't comfort him. The only thing I can do is video-call him," he said.

Without goodbye hugs at the door, his children will occasionally cry when Mr Tan leaves for work.

"At first it was very sad, but we nurses took a pledge to help at all times, in pandemic periods and safe periods."

Mr Tan is also no stranger to wary looks on public transport.

In April, when he hailed a taxi in civilian clothes, the driver asked him why he was going to the EMD before letting him in.

"When I entered the taxi, he wound down all the windows.

"It was understandable. Everyone has his fears, we nurses also have our fears."

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 01, 2020, with the headline No hugs, no kisses... for now. Subscribe