This Frontline Nurse's Perspective

This blog post was guest authored by one of our Clinical Brand Ambassadors, wishing to remain anonymous due to fears of repercussions. 

 

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

My mind still tries to reconcile that I cannot negotiate my way out of this pandemic. There isn’t a protocol I can follow to heal the sick. There isn’t an immunization I can give to help give my patients a fighting chance. There isn’t anything I can do except to treat my patient’s symptoms as best as I can and treat them with all the love and encouragement I can give. However, to me, I feel like I fall short every shift.

Prior to starting a shift, the days, hours, and minutes spent before going to work are just filled with anxiety and fear. I wish I felt more brave, but when I’m at home...I don’t. I feel scared, just like so many people in this world. More so, I fear that I will get sick or, God-forbid, I spread this virus to my spouse and child.


The fear keeps me up at night but especially the night before I have to go to work. When I think about it, I haven’t had a good night’s sleep since my hospital told us that my floor would be the new COVID unit. I remember when I first heard the news, I pictured us all walking around in big white hazmat suits with our respirators and goggles cutting into our faces. I thought about the videos I watched on Facebook of Chinese nurses cutting each other’s hair in order to help their PPE form a better seal to their faces. I wondered if it would come down to that for us.

We were told we would have all the PPE we would need. We weren’t given details as to what that meant at the time, but I suppose someone should’ve asked the specifics of what that really meant. Coulda, shoulda, woulda....

 

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Management had a second meeting with us, telling us that it was inevitable that the patients were coming. They reiterated their support of us and our mission. At this time, I had no fear. I felt ready.

 

Then, we got the news via a mass text message that we could only wear a surgical mask (with or without faceshield), eye shield, yellow gown, and gloves. No respirator use unless a patient was going to be vented. I felt so confused! I texted a fellow nurse asking if this was a joke! I was anxious to go to work to get the real answers because, surely, this was a tremendous mistake.

Didn’t the management see the news? Didn’t they see the videos of these nurses overseas who were wearing disposable underpants under their hazmat suits in order to keep from having to stop doing their work? Didn’t they see the videos of nurses with cuts in their faces from masks? I felt so confused, angry, and betrayed.

Sure enough, my worst fears were realized. We were told that if we needed a respirator, one would be signed out to us and we would be given a paper sack. We were given instructions to keep tick marks on the bag in order to keep track of how many times we wore our respirators. Five uses was the max we were told we could wear it. However, getting a respirator is an act of Congress.

To this day, I see doctors walking around the hospital wearing respirators in the hallways and I feel a surge or anger. Why do they get one and we don’t? One nurse told me she knows where the “secret stash” of N95’s are kept, but she said she won’t take one unless she gets sick. That made me mad, too.

I took all my precautions. 

  • I bleached my surroundings and common areas with sani-wipes every two hours.
  • I took special care to not touch my face.
  • I washed my hands when I entered a room and when I left a room (I used to just sanitize, unless my hands were visibly soiled).
  • I sanitized anytime I passed a sanitizer in the hallway.
  • I touched elevator buttons with my elbow.
  • I tried to stay six feet away from my co-workers.
  • My spouse would even drive me to work and drop me off at the door so I wouldn’t have to ride in the hospital shuttle to and from our satellite parking garage to keep my exposure at a minimum.
  • I changed my scrubs at work...I left my shoes in the trunk of my car and wore sandals to my car and on my car ride home.
  • When I wasn’t working, I self-quarantined in my home because I didn’t want to accidentally infect someone.


I did everything in my power to control myself.

Then the unthinkable happened. I worked a shift caring for non-virus patients. As it would turn out, I cared for a patient that turned out to be infected. We didn’t know it right away. We didn’t know it until the next day after we noticed the patient was transferred overnight to the ICU and placed on a ventilator.

I think the fear made me lock up. I couldn’t and didn’t fully comprehend what that meant for me until the following day. Then I reported myself. When I called employee health, the voice on the other end of the phone told me I was at least the 300th call she received during that day alone reporting exposure. I was told to monitor my temperature twice a day and watch for symptoms. However, if I developed symptoms, I had to report that to employee health. Otherwise, I was still told to work as if nothing happened.

This was less than a week ago. I take my temperature at least four times each day. I keep a log on my phone. I lay in bed every morning and scan my body. I wonder if the aches and pains I feel are new or normal. If my cough is from allergies or something else.

On mornings I have to go to work, I wake up at least an hour before my alarm is supposed to go off (unintentionally) and I listen to the stillness and scan my body. I try to calm my nerves by thinking about all my prior travels. I think of the hospitals I have visited in the past. I think of all of the nurses I’ve met and if they feel the same way as me.

Then I get to work and do it again. I walk into the hospital petrified. I’m slightly bolstered by the pro-nursing sentiment sweeping the country right now, but at the end of the day, I am still petrified.

I see my coworkers faces and that fear gets compartmentalized. The fear gets pushed further back when I get my assignment and I meet my patients. My training kicks in like second nature. I know that I have lives I am responsible for and then I get a feeling of extreme protectiveness over them, and I pledge to myself that I will do EVERYTHING in my power to help them get a little better and not lose hope.

At the end of the day, I change into my street clothes, go home and shower, eat dinner and go to bed. The next day, it all sinks in again and I can’t believe this is all happening again.

 

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