“It is very eye-opening when they tell you “positive” and you have to give a list of every person you have come in contact with. A list of everyone that you could have unknowingly infected.” – Susan W, a nurse at a major Boston hospital system
Hospital work is stressful every day. However, the stress during a pandemic as unpredictable and devastating as COVID-19, defies comprehension from the outside world. We had the chance to speak with two nurses, one recently diagnosed with the virus and another who is currently virus-free but faces that fear each shift.
Susan is an outpatient nurse at a major Boston hospital system. She loves her patients and her job, but lately has been telecommuting from her apartment.
“I was diagnosed with COVID-19 after exhibiting very few of the classic symptoms,” Susan explains. “I did not have a cough or fever, it felt more like a sinus infection. If I had not been working in a hospital, I’m not sure I would’ve qualified for testing. But they were being safe for the sake of my patients.”
Susan’s absence leaves a hole in an already understaffed unit as nurses who have ICU or Emergency Room experience are being called out to their units to help.
“I work with nurses who have previously worked in the ICU or ER and they are being called up. However, these are not people in most cases who are used to using ventilators. In a normal emergency room, respiratory therapists are called in to treat patients with breathing issues. Now, these nurses have a one-day training period to learn how to operate a ventilator because the respiratory therapists can’t be everywhere. It is all hands on deck”
Her best advice to the general public? “Pretend you have it and act like you are infected all the time.”
Diane, a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit nurse in Washington D.C. echoes that sentiment, “our protocols are updating every day because there is so much we don’t know. The one thing we do know is that you can’t be too careful even if you are not in the medical field.”
What the average person can’t see, is the extraordinary and laborious steps hospital workers take to keep themselves from being the next patient.
“The hospital has designated entrances now, “ Diane explains. “We enter and consider everything we are wearing to be infected from that moment forward. Your temperature is checked every two hours for the length of the shift. You bring your own masks to supplement what you are given because there just isn’t enough.”
Homemade masks have become the norm and Diane tried to order from a local crafter but “The seller eventually said that even if I gave her the elastic I had as a trade for a few of her masks, she would not have enough to masks to give me any.”
So, Diane followed a tutorial and made her own from cloth that she had in the house. “Now I know that I have enough masks no matter what happens with the supplies at the hospital.”
And what happens is something even professionals can’t answer but they are realistic. And that reality is grim, “I will probably get reinfected,” says Susan. “I mean that’s just the way this thing works when you are in the thick of it like I am.”
Get Real Health has launched an international turnkey telehealth solution to help providers address the COVID-19 crisis while enabling virtual connections for other patients in need, learn more about Talk With Your Doc >.