Twenty-eight years ago, I graduated from nursing school (Good Samaritan Hospital School of Nursing). I moved to Indianapolis for a nursing job, met my husband, and had three children. The thing about nursing is there is always a need for nurses and always something new to try. In 28 years, I have held a newborn as it came into the world and held the hand of someone as they have taken their last breath. I have been part of the celebrations of good news and been the one to hug patients after receiving devastating news. I was caring for AIDS patients before we knew about the disease and how it was transmitted, and I was part of the team that planned for a possible Ebola outbreak.
This is different.
Different in how we are handling and responding to it. Different in how it “acts”. And my “role” in this crisis is different.
My father in law died very unexpectedly 21 years ago due to medical error. That forever changed the way I cared for my patients. I always put their needs first in all that I did, but I started to focus on preventing errors from occurring.
When I was offered a position in Quality and Risk Management nine years ago, I took it. I no longer provide hands-on care to patients. I work behind the scenes to ensure that my hospital is providing safe, quality care to each patient that we serve. The work that I do is essential every day, but it is especially important now.
The COVID- 19 pandemic has forever changed how care is provided to patients. This is a disease we know little about, are unsure how to treat and do not have the equipment in the amounts needed to care for the impending surge. Healthcare workers are performing unfamiliar roles. School nurses are being trained to care for patients in the acute care hospital, physical therapists are assisting “prone” patients (rolling them onto their stomach to assist with their breathing), and rehab techs are now providing help in the Emergency Department.
Everyone in the hospital must wear personal protective equipment. The supplies of these essential items are dwindling. We are trying to assess how much of all of it we will need for when the surge hits. As we continue to plan and prepare for the surge, we are looking at what equipment we have on hand and how much more we will need. Do we have enough everything we need?
Every single day, more patients hit our doors to be tested. I have a master list that is now over 1000 patients long. If the patient was admitted, they need to be properly isolated. This is crucial to helping to stop the spread and to protect those that are providing hands-on care. I track the days between the date of the test and the date of the result. I read their hospital notes daily to see how they’re progressing.
If the patient was not admitted, I check daily to see if their results are back and if the patient was notified. This, too, is crucial to help prevent the spread of this disease.
I see which patients have been in the hospital the longest, which patients were lucky enough to get a negative result and which patients have succumbed to COVID-19. I see things to celebrate while being brought to tears by the devastation. We just discharged a patient that was not expected to survive- after being in the hospital since March 2. CELEBRATION! A mother just died of COVID- 19, one week after her son and three weeks after her husband died of the disease. DEVASTATION.
Many in healthcare are struggling. Those on the frontlines live in fear of contracting COVID themselves or worse, bringing it home to those that they love. However, we keep marching forward, taking care of those that need us.
No, I am not physically in the hospital, but I am working side by side with them, providing them with the information that will help them to give safe, quality care to those that we serve.
We are living through history. And I keep repeating to myself, “This too shall pass… move ONWARD!” And like all Cavaliers, I do.