Going to work [as a nurse] is obviously the most important to me now, and staying healthy enough to be able to go to work and take care of people. I have to FaceTime with a lot of families, which is very difficult. I think the nurses are playing such an important role not only in terms of taking care of these people from a health perspective, and trying to get them to be healthy enough to breathe on their own, but also maintaining the family relationship with these patients. You can see a difference in their facial expressions and their condition when they hear voices from family and friends.
What was most important to you before you had to social distance?
My family, I think. They’re still obviously really important to me, but I didn’t realize how much time I spent with them. Being so close in proximity to them is something I took for granted–being able to go home at the drop of a dime and able to see my parents.
What’s the first thing you’ll do when this is over?
Hug my mom. I just haven’t seen my parents. I think that’s getting increasingly more difficult. I told my brother the first thing I want to do when this is over is to go to the house, sit on the porch with mom and dad, drink wine, and just watch the sunset and chill.
What are you doing to pass the time?
In my free time–very infrequently–I’ve been doing Instagram workouts, and on the weekends, we’ve done some sort of activity based date-night. Spending time with my boyfriend.
We converted 23 operating rooms, 16 PACU beds into ICUs by using our anesthesia machines as ventilators, and it’s 2-3 patients per room. My room had 2 patients, they were both intubated. Everything changes every day, so they’re on a bunch of drips…combinations of sedatives and paralytics. The goal is to get these patients stable enough to ween them off of the ventilator. The process of taking care of both of these people–a 60-year old woman, and an 81-year old gentleman–they were very ventilator dependent, so what they do is [perform a Tracheotomy on] these patients. Essentially nobody really knows much about this, so it’s a lot of team work. I am the primary nurse, I have a secondary nurse, and then I have an anesthesia resident who oversees the ventilator. It’s my same OR team, but we’re all operating in very different roles. It’s really just keeping these people alive, but also trying to ween them off of being ventilator dependent. It’s a lot of back and forth. Our first week we extubated five people and re-intubated all five people. That happens quite frequently. It’s kind of trial and error, but with a lot of really smart people who know what they’re doing. Before this, I was an ER nurse, so that was my only critical care experience. It’s my first experience with total care. That’s been quite emotional. Even though these patients are ventilated, you still get to know them and develop somewhat of a connection. I realize now I could never be an ICU nurse. You get to know who they are, what they do, what their family dynamic is like. It’s a little chaotic. Our hospital is 99% Covid beds right now. It’s become a Covid hospital. We don’t do any surgeries unless they’re life-threatening. It’s been a huge learning curve. The silver-lining is that the nurses I work with are getting so much more knowledgable in our field of practice. Everyone will be a better nurse because of it.
What makes you happy right now?
My dog. Having a dog has been the best part, and not living alone. Trying to distract myself in ways. It’s difficult to distract myself, obviously since I’m either there, or thinking about it. I’m trying to learn how to play chess with my boyfriend. The dog is a huge part of general happiness every day. I can’t imagine what it would be like going through this without having a dog.
What would you tell yourself two months ago with the knowledge you have today?
I didn’t realize how much I took for granted. There’s so much that I’m able to do without thinking about it. I’m appreciating everyone and everything around me a little bit more. I think I’ve realized even though I’m working really hard, how hard other people work as well. I’ve been more mindful. Every time I go to the grocery store, I thank the clerk for working. They’re working just as hard as I am. They’re putting their life probably even more on the line than I am in terms of not having the appropriate Personal Protective Equipment. I think just not taking things like going to the gym for granted, being with friends, being with family–that time is very valuable to me now.
I think from a work perspective, learning to be comfortable with being uncomfortable has been a huge thing. Some of my coworkers have never taken care of a patient who’s awake. [I’m] learning to be comfortable with being uncomfortable. It’s okay to ask questions, everyone cares about the primary goal, which is go get these people better. That’s the biggest thing I’ve learned.
Personally, I’ve learned that I really want to be a mom. I always wanted that, but in terms of how badly and how soon. What if this happened to me and I never had kids? My nuclear family has become a bigger thing for me.