A nurse has drawn sketches of medical professionals’ struggle at negative pressure isolation wards with the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19). First appearing in the the Los Angeles Times, his work is read by interested people all over the world. A negative pressure room is a type of hospital isolation room that keeps patients with infectious illnesses away from others such as patients with COVID-19. A healthcare staff member who is working in a place where is cut off from the outside world is Oh Young-Jun, an ICU(Intensive Care Unit) nurse at Gachon University Gil Medical Center in Incheon. He is posting his drawings on an SNS(Social Network Service) page ‘Nursing Story’, which shows the daily routines of nurses' all-out efforts for patients. Let’s find out more about the story of nurse Oh Young-jun, a former artist, who perhaps has a novel background.
1. What in particular made you decide to become a nurse while majoring in Korean painting?
I entered art college to achieve my dream of becoming a professional painter that I had from early childhood. After entering art college, I thought all of my actions were attempts to achieve one goal which was becoming a professional painter. After freshmen year, I entered the military to do my duty. Serving in the army, I had a lot of chances to meet various people, and from the special experience, I have started to think if I was too obsessed to become a painter. I started to doubt my talent and was concerned with my career. As time went by, I was discharged from military service. After returning to school, I took some time for self-examination (various kinds of part-time jobs, owner of a paint store, exhibitor, assistant curator). After a lot of experience and contemplating, I have realized that I did not have a gift for art. Thus, I decided to change my career path, but since early childhood, all I did was drawing and I didn’t have any special talent so there were a lot of restrictions in changing my career path. The very first thing I did when I was considering changing my career path was to think of someone I admired. With that in mind, I had always had respect for Nightingale after reading her biography when I was seven years old. So, I decided to become a nurse like her. At that time a job of the nurse was a very rare occupation for men, but after a lot of searching I found out that men can also become a nurse and eventually I decided to transfer to the College of Nursing.
2. Preparing to transfer to the College of Nursing, what helped you the most (habits, study method)?
At the time when I was preparing to transfer to the College of Nursing, English was very important. Since I was only focusing on drawing, I was behind in English, so I spent a lot of time studying English compared to others. It was a hard time, but studying English is essential to start a new chapter. I didn’t have a special study method; I did the same as others did. However, I was earnest, so I studied like crazy.
3. There will be a lot of emergencies and challenging assignments in ICU, what is the motive of drawing while you are working in a challenging place?
Narrowly, my sketches depict our department medical staff wearing personal protective equipment and their difficulty, and their emotions. Widely, I cover topics that every clinical nurse can feel sympathy for. I feel rewarded when I read the comments from the medical staff. It is not easy to hold down a job and draw at the same time. However, the medical staffs’ sympathy and their comments help me to constantly upload my drawings on SNS without being worn out.
4. When was the most rewarding moment and hardest time working as an ICU nurse?
ICU nurses should be the best judge of their patients better than anyone else. Thus, we need the ability to capture and respond to patients’ changes as fast as possible. The hardest time working in the ICU is when my assigned patients’ condition gets worse. This makes me distressed because of the thought that makes me think they got worse because “I don’t know well enough”. On the contrary, the most rewarding moment of my career is when countless indicators of patients who hang between life and death go back to the general ward due to my efforts.
5. Specifically, what is the difference in medical staffs’ life after COVID-19?
Due to COVID-19, a lot of medical staff are sacrificing their lives in hospitals and by extension in the local community. Thanks to all those sacrifices and Corona front-line medical workers, I’m experiencing positive attention in this occupation. I hope these positive views on the occupation ‘Nurse’ will make a step forward and take our voices into account.
6. What is your ultimate goal/message that you want to deliver from ‘Nurse Story’ on SNS?
I would like to sketch moments of medical staff that can help them recharge. I will continue to tell people about the worries and difficulties of nurses through webtoons, which will eventually teach people that nurses have additional duties that aren't shown to others in dramas. I wish to improve the stereotypical image of nurses by vividly drawing medical staff realistic moments. I will continue to update stories on Korean nurses, especially those who work at ICUs. If I can afford it, I would like to express the common difficulties of nurses working at various sites such as wards and emergency rooms.
7. You must have experienced a lot of changes in your life. When was the ‘most meaningful moment’ in your life?
I would say our life is ongoing. This means the present is important than joy, anger, sorrow, and pleasure in the old days. Trying my best to help the recovery of patients and bringing them back healthy to their partners, children, and parents who are waiting outside of the ICU is the most meaningful moment in my life.
8. Can you tell us your plans as a nurse and webtoon artist?
I will continue to update stories on the medical staff, especially those who work at ICUs. I want to sketch stories that can touch many medical staffs and heal their tired mind. I truly believe that if I updated stories that express nurses’ worries and difficulties, one day readers would realize a stereotypical image of nurses in dramas isn’t all. Nurses play more roles than others think and I hope others can realize that by reading my webtoons.
9. What would you like to say to people who are dreaming of more than one job or people who are changing their course?
A lot of courage and challenge is needed to start something new and throw away everything you’ve done so far. It might be obvious and abstract but I want to say that your choice might be seen as uncertain and throw yourself into fear but you will achieve your goal when you trust yourself and do your best as you firmly resolve it.
I certainly trust that this interview will be helpful to all college students who are wandering their career paths. The idea of having one job for life is a stereotype. Like Oh Young-jun, we can also work happily by combining favorites. Where there’s a will, there’s a way. I hope you can gain the courage that can challenge yourself to get a truly enjoyable job through his story. It is okay to work two jobs or stop to allow your mind to wander. You will always have a chance to start something new. I send my support to all those who are working towards a dream with faith as Oh Young-Jun has stressed the point.
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