There are so many stories going around and my own is especially poignant, I would like to share a behind the scenes look during Covid-19-pandemic. I have been an Operating Room nurse for over 25 years and I travel and work as a clinical consultant/subject matter expert supporting design and development of hospitals as well as transition and activation activities across the country. I am a little unique in that I still work as a nurse at the bedside in addition to my consulting business because it keeps up my nursing skills, continues to provide me first-hand experience and maintains my credibility with nurses, doctors, and other healthcare workers. My nursing is now per-diem (as needed status) since consulting work is versatile allowing me to experience the “best of both worlds”. I have been working with a hospital in Seattle, Washington for the last year and completed transition and activation of a new hybrid OR and a cardiovascular OR last fall. Right or wrong, it was my feeling that I likely had exposure to the Covid-19 virus while traveling there before anyone recognized it since information came out later that raised that possibility. As a nurse, throughout my career, exposure to “bugs” can create a pretty strong immune system in healthcare workers and was evident in my family since we were almost never sick. The immediate effects of the Covid-19 pandemic quickly affected operating rooms across the country first slowing down and finally stopping elective cases that freed up operating room nurses. As a per-diem nurse, I do not receive financial benefits such as vacation and sick pay so I was motivated to continue working as long as I was needed. I was one of the first volunteers from the operating room staff to join the resource team to support patient care since I was willing to work in other departments where more nurses were needed and the biggest need was in the ICU. I was subsequently assigned as a second nurse to ICU nurses where my first assignment was a young healthcare worker who had contracted Covid-19 from one of her patients in a nursing home the end of March. That week, almost every bed in the ICU had positive patients – many with two patients to a room and although it was scary, everyone just kept taking care of patients. I learned later that during the first weeks of Covid-19, patients had been on ventilators for two and three weeks and that most people had died or were still really sick. One of the hardest things for nursing staff was that there were no family members allowed in the hospitals which meant nurses were the ones keeping in contact with families using technology to help as much as possible. It hurt my heart to realize that a screen cannot replace the touch of family and loved ones when someone is sick and especially during those last moments for patients and family members no matter how much we tried. My next scheduled shift was the Monday after Easter.
On Easter Sunday, I received a phone call from my sister in Louisiana sharing that my mom had passed away. I quickly understood first-hand the loss and not being able to travel to be with my own family, not to mention all of the details surrounding such an event that had to be put on-hold or unknown because of all the closures. My mom had previously shared with me that her nursing home had locked them down in late February, so I was glad to hear that she died of natural causes. As a side note, I want to mention that up to that date Heritage Manor West Nursing and Rehab Center in Shreveport, LA still had not had any positive Covid-19 cases which is something to be proud of when we have all heard about the devastation to many nursing home. That following Monday, I wanted to be busy and useful so instead of staying home, I went to work and was again assigned to take care of the same young healthcare worker/patient from the previous week and found that she was slowly improving along with several others. One cool thing that I got to be part of was cheering with the ICU staff as patients who had improved enough to be taken off ventilators and discharged to the Covid-19 floor rolled out of the ICU. During my last shift in the ICU, one of the nurses had just come back to work from quarantine which she had contracted while working. She shared that she was in a waiting period to be able to donate plasma with antibodies that would be used to treat some of the really sick patients. During that day and the next, the doctors were working with the FDA where we actually started two patients on the convalescent plasma donated from previously positive patients along with the bonus of having multiple empty ICUs and admissions had really slowed down to only one during my shift. We all felt that things had started turning the corner.
Being in the hospital as a healthcare worker during March and April has been an eye-opening experience in many ways. As in other industries, healthcare has been preparing for the possibility of a pandemic for many years, so an upside has been the testing and streamlining of those plans. There have been other successes as well including recognizing how when we all work together the obstacles we can overcome. In closing, I believe that the Covid-19 pandemic has truly been one of the most devastating events in my lifetime, touching almost every country across the globe and will not soon be forgotten leaving effects that will far surpass even the terrorist acts of 911. But even so, for every negative there are positives and here are some of mine.
- It should be easy to recognize and prioritize those most important in our lives and realize that people and relationships should be our highest area of focus.
- People have come together – teaming up and realizing that we have much more in common than we thought and working together we all win
- Resources and services like banking, utilities, and even groceries/dining along with technologies such as the internet, phones, have been tested and mostly lived up to the challenge. Even the extra attention to help those lagging behind in areas like tele-medicine has finally taken off and will likely continue.
- Countries now recognize and are taking steps to prioritize their citizens and becoming more self-sufficient.
- Systems and processes and back-up solutions have been tested and streamlined in almost every industry.
- Businesses have been able to test their staff working from home which should provide a new platform that will help both industry and families moving forward.
- Families are spending more time talking and together doing life together instead of being consumed by busyness or hiding behind screens.
- Our president is a businessman instead of a politician which, working along with other smart leaders across our country and the world, should help stabilize and bring back our economy.
- The pandemic has kept the news people busy giving us all a break from being divided by politics.
- Lots of us caught up our honey-do lists and projects long put off. I even had time to make some of the things that I hadn’t dared hope for come true.
As a nurse and a clinical consultant I’m excited to be able to help bring forward my first-hand experience to support process improvement, workflow and space modifications to accommodate the changes to clinical spaces that will come as a result of this pandemic. I challenge us all to make the very best of our “new normal” and not forget the things we have all learned from this experience.
Some of the projects I completed during quarantine: