Nurse Gives Behind-the-Scenes Insight Into COVID-19 Outbreak
I have been a nurse for more than 29 years and have worked in many different areas.
When COVID-19 hit Louisville, we were updated daily, and at times multiple times a day at work through staff meetings and emails because the rules changed often. Then the PPE became an issue, then more changes. It was a crazy emotional roller coaster.
We are all scared because every day is uncertain. What will we face? Have we been exposed and are now carrying the virus? Did I wear the correct PPE? When will things be back to normal? Can I afford to keep getting told to stay home because the census is low? What are we going to do with this pandemic if it continues to grow and we lose so many people?
The patients — all of them — are alone in the hospital. The nurses and staff are all they have. I can’t imagine how they feel. The patients who don’t have COVID-19, but are very sick are surrounded by a virus that could possibly kill them. Will they ever see their family again? Will they die alone? Or will they be able to make it out of the hospital and return home? We, as nurses, are living this with them.
Our lives are an emotional mess. No matter if you are at home or at work, the virus consumes you. You can’t hide or pretend it isn’t here.
When you arrive to work, you pass through the entrance with staff asking how you feel and taking your temperature. Then when you get to your floor, you get your assignments as you put on the mask that you will wear for the next 12 to 13 hours.
Then you are off at a run because staff is cut, asked to stay home or are pulled to other areas. The patient census is very low because we’re trying to keep everyone healthy at home. No elective surgeries and people are afraid to come to the ER. But when they do come to the hospital, they arrive very ill. The acuity is high with less staff and it makes for a very busy day.
But you get through it. You melt down, you support each other and, most importantly, you support the patients. I always let my patients know that I am their family for the day. I will be there for them no matter what.
Nurses are here to care for those who can’t care for themselves. We are also there to take care of the families who are terrified because their loved one is in a place that they cannot enter.
Working as a nurse right now is dangerous, but so is life. If we do what is recommended by the Governor, the CDC and our hospital, we will get through this. No matter what we face, just knowing we are not alone eases the fear a little.
Still, there are so many bright spots, too. My bright spots are seeing someone smile because they know I will do everything in my power to take care of them. This involves much more than passing medications or changing a dressing or drawing labs. It involves trying to make them laugh, holding their hands when they cry, crying with them, FaceTiming their families so they can see each other, going down and picking up some homemade cards from their grandkids, hanging the cards on the wall and so much more.
Nurses have so many opportunities that are gifts. We have the chance to be there for the life-changing and life-ending events. As difficult as this may be, it is a true blessing. I know at the end of each day that I did my best to make someone’s day better, to have them know I am here for them. There’s an emotional investment each nurse makes to every patient, every day. Not only during this pandemic, but always.