I share this with the intention of highlighting the nurses in the field who are at the bedsides of every patient. I am proud of the work that they are doing for all of us and the sacrifices they are truly experiencing to do what has now become way above the “call of duty.”
I want to say that during this pandemic, our family is praying for the rest of the country and the world. We are doing our part to keep the virus from spreading while continuing to take care of our responsibilities with families, work, and community. WSU has been extremely supportive of our faculty, staff, and students and I have nothing but praise for their quick and thoughtful actions at every unfolding phase of this pandemic.
I have five family members on the front lines of healthcare and I am so very proud of each of them as they provide selfless love and care to those most vulnerable right now.
My son and his wife are both nurses in Connecticut. My son has cared for the very first cases of COVID-19 at his hospital and has been the direct care nurse for many more COVID-19 patients since then. His wife, who works in a major community hospital emergency room in Connecticut, sees numerous cases of patients who are positive with the virus daily. They have recently been enacted for mandatory shifts over the last couple of weeks and are doing everything they can to ensure that their 8-year-old and 1-year-old at home, remain safe and non-exposed. What normally would be a warm welcome for Mom and Dad, after a shift, has turned into a confusing time for the kids as my son and daughter-in-law have had to quarantine from their children. Seeing the social distancing between parents and their children has been one of the most painful parts of this whole process. They are wonderful, caring, and compassionate nurses AND parents. I am again so overwhelmed with pride at their warrior spirit!
My sister is a charge nurse in one of the two largest major emergency rooms in Honolulu. Within a week, the COVID-19 positive patient numbers went from 11 to 500. Her day is filled with treating those patients and spending much time on the phone with patients’ family members who can’t come into the facility, providing reassurance, and being a liaison between patients and loved ones. She is working a grueling 12-hour shift most days of the week and additionally “double-backing” (staying extra hours) to assist with the numbers of patients beyond capacity. The hardest part of her day is coming home and not being able to be around her family members with fears that she could get them infected.
My husband is working in the main mental health facility here in Worcester and received news that there were two active cases of COVID-19 in his facility and that 20+ more would be transported into the hospital and placed on a “COVID unit” to help alleviate the burden on other facilities in the state. Although the hospital does not have any oxygen capacity or respirators to care for this vulnerable population, the administration feels that committing the skills of their staff and placing patients and nurses in a position of extreme risk is their “best” course of action as this virus takes its toll on our entire state. Calming and caring for the mentally ill, who are already vulnerable, while dealing with the stresses and fear of the virus “moving in” to their space, as an administrative directive, has been the most challenging work currently for all of his colleagues. Besides the lack of hospital support for very sick patients, the facility lacks the personal protective equipment (PPE) to shield everyone from the viral spread.
My sister-in-law, who is on the MA Disaster Management Team, just returned from deployment in California, where she cared for hundreds of COVID19 patients in two cities hit hard by the virus. She currently cannot return to work until her quarantine period is over. She is struggling with the time that she is not able to get back into the hospital to help more people.
My niece is working as a medical technician in an emergency room here in Worcester and reports that this is the 11th shift in which she has worn the same mask to care for COVID-19 patients. During her shift, the mask is the furthest from her mind however, as she travels to each room to take vital signs, transport, and comfort those who are not coping with being alone and scared.
This is a common theme among all healthcare workers. They are all providing the only support and comfort for the sick, who are alone during their illness. The extremely emotional moments happen when they find themselves comforting those patients who realize that they may die alone. The tears my colleagues and family have shared with me is overwhelming. One colleague shared, “My patient died without anyone with them except for me. Their families cannot grieve for them or with them. We have to place their bodies in storage containers outside of the hospital. The hopeless feeling cannot be put into words. We just have to keep going and saving as many lives as we can. I cannot fathom the thought of dying alone and I cannot let that happen to anyone!”
Supporting my students during this time has been my focus. I hopefully instill in all of them that being a direct patient care nurse takes many strengths and my job is to help them to understand what those are in the complexity of healthcare. They are beginning to understand the gravity of this pandemic, the real dangers and challenges of our profession, and the life-saving knowledge, attitudes, and skills that we must have at all times. My passion during this time remains to teach our students that truly dedicated direct patient care nurses step up to the plate, and not away, when times seem most desperate. Our job is “all of that and then some” and then it’s some more. Each of us are really the persons who sick or dying patients look for and they know we will not let them down. Real nurses run to the danger and we don’t hesitate. Blood, body fluids, viruses—even when there are no masks. We are still here, still saving lives, no matter what.
When all has passed and we feel a sense of normalcy again, I will be so proud to say, of our current class of sophomores (Class of 2022), that they have not required any modifications of content or clinical time and, in fact, have maintained the same hours as if they were here on campus. We have not skipped a beat and in true nurse spirit, there has not been a student who has complained or requested this time away from any of the critical professional preparation we hold as a standard in the sophomore level of nursing. If anything like this ever happens again, and I pray that it doesn’t, the WSU nursing graduates are the nurses you will want caring for you. As we stay committed to our students in their endeavors to care for our community, we appreciate the support and love that is shared with us during our most challenging time as caregivers.
My sincerest prayers to all.
Assistant Professor Michelle Paik Page, D.N.P., R.N.
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