Nursing in a COVID Hot Zone

Uncategorized Jan 21, 2021

It’s January 2021 in the middle of the worst COVID crisis we have seen (so far anyways) in Southern California.

 One of my jobs is in a relatively small acute care hospital as a rapid response nurse which basically means I respond to calls for patients that need some sort of rapid assistance.

 Normally (read non-COVID era), I start my day by rounding on the various floors in my hospital, saying a quick hello and shining a smile to those both coming and going at change of shift and inquiring about any patients that might need a close eye kept that day. Sometimes, my rounds are interrupted by a “code” called overhead, but that’s not common.

 Present days are quite different, however. I rarely have the opportunity to truly round and given my constant n95, covered by surgical mask, plus face shield most people don’t even know it’s me let alone that I am smiling.

 Now, my days mostly start with an official “Rapid Response” called overhead, maybe a phone call asking me to come “look” at a patient, OR worse, the day starts with full on “Code Blue”.

 Pre-COVID, when a “rapid response” was called, I would arrive to a room to help in an effort to keep a patient stable. I was a bit like a portable intensive care unit and I had a fair amount of tools that would likely help me in keeping the patient alive.

 Now, in the era of COVID, when I am called to the bedside, there are typically two scenarios. The patient cannot breathe and is a full code, which means we need to put them on the ventilator OR the patient is a DNR, and I am called to hold hands and assist in the process of calling time of death. Even if, the patient is a full code, the scenario often ends up at time of death despite interventions.

 Lately, as I hold those dying hands, I am also praying that I can remain in the room long enough to finish my part in holding space before I am called to do the same function all over again in another room. I hate walking away even though I am called to yet another room where something similar is likely happening.

Perhaps you can start to imagine the toll that this might take on a person. This is certainly not what I have experienced in my 15+ years pre-COVID as a nurse. This is most definitely not what I signed up for when I went to nursing school.

 It occurs to me as I attempt to walk through my current days at the hospital that this must be a bit like working / living through a combat situation. Much like many reading this may have no real concept of frontline nursing today, I have no real concept of what it would be like to a soldier on the frontlines yet that is the only thing that I can imagine might be similar.

 As far as getting through the day right now, and in keeping with my website theme of burning brighter, I have attempted to focus on how I am still being helpful and useful to others.

For me, I hope that I am helping the patient to transition to a better setting than the one we are in and for the nurse who has called me for help, at least I can do my best to hold the space. Many of the nurses who call me are less experienced or even newly graduated. I cannot imagine just graduating and walking into this nightmare.

Even if this lasts only a short while longer, there are bound to be consequences and fall out from this pandemic to our collective mental health. I know that I have been altered in ways that I cannot even process nor have I really begun to fully unpack.

BUT, for now, in order to stand upright, I focus on how I can be of assistance to my fellow nurses and I pray A LOT.

I don’t have a particular call to action in writing this message. I really just hope to share my perspective.

Thank you for reading and I really do hope that the end is in sight.  


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