(Reuters) - Their emotions alternating between burn-out and pride, nursing staff at Berlin's Havelhoehe hospital are knuckling down for another shift as, almost a year after COVID first struck, the second wave of Germany's epidemic rages on.
"It's been extremely difficult since October," said Dudu Dagli, nursing director at the hospital's intensive care unit.
Some patients are no longer able to move or breathe on their own, and depend on nurses to take care of their most basic needs. "We have adjust their position, wash them, take care of their eyes," Dagli said.
Germany has been battling its second wave since the autumn and has been in lockdown since mid-December as it tries to ease the pressure on its healthcare system by bringing down the number of new infections.
German hospitals association DKG said on Tuesday that about 4,600 COVID-19 patients were in intensive care, down from a peak of 5,781 on Jan 4.
Of the 17 coronavirus patients currently at the Havelhoehe hospital, 12 are receiving mechanical ventilation.
"In a way, you get used to everything somehow - the stress level, the high number of patients, the need to isolate. However, it is still absolutely exhausting," nurse Miriam Bloessner told Reuters.
Intensive care unit nurse Carlos Reuss spoke of the emotional drain of taking care of patients who burst into tears when they wake up in a hospital bed with a tube down their throats.
"You have to have strength to deal with that and to not bring it home with you," he said.
Solidarity among staff, support from loved ones, and a sense of purpose can make the challenge less daunting.
"I say to myself: 'You are a nurse, you have a very important job', get up with joy and come here," Dagli said.
(Reporting by Leon Malherbe and Fanny Brodersen; Writing by Zuzanna Szymanska in Gdansk; editing by John Stonestreet)