Living On The Edge

It looks so calm outside. The sun is shining. There are cars on the road and people walking around. It looks like any other spring day in Chicago.

It’s not any other day because here I am, at home, feeling like all the worry and anxiety I suppressed about this virus bubble up. I should limit my social media time. Really. The private Facebook group for my fellow nurses at my hospital is informative, but sometimes it takes me down the dark, winding path of despair. Issues are brought to light that are familiar in other institutions across the country, even the globe. The same pressing issues are at my hospital.

Not enough Personal Protective Equipment… Inadequate Personal Protective Equipment… Not enough COVID-19 tests… Not being notified if you take care of a COVID-19 patient… Not being tested after exposure to a possible COVID-19 patient… Changing guidelines from the CDC based on availability of supplies in this country and not because of science… Finding out that someone you worked with was just diagnosed… Worrying you might bring the virus home to your loved ones…

I try not start my day on social media, but then the fear of missing important information sucks me in. Then the stress… Why do I do this to myself? And on my day off no less…

Do nurses ever really get a day off in a crisis even when they are not at work?

I am also in a Facebook group called COVID-19 FOR HEALTHCARE WORKERS. Based on posts from frontline healthcare providers in Italy and other parts of the world, I am anticipating that our situation is about to get worse. I’m gearing up by seeking out Best Practices. It is so sad that I may benefit from the horrific experiences of my fellow nurses. May God have mercy…

I wonder, is everyone awake and ready? I hope so…

Practicality Not Panic

These are strange times…

As I was getting ready for work this morning, it dawned on me that I was one of the few residents that would actually leave this 40 unit low-rise condo building to go to WORK. This gave me a sense of purpose that I hadn’t felt in a long time. Or was it just a heavier weight on my shoulders?  Yeah, that’s probably it.  Since COVID-19 started making its way through my city, my neighbors, family, and friends have been working from home, even having to self-quarantine after an exposure to the virus.

Not me.  Not yet.  I’m a nurse.  This crazy pandemic is calling.

Hello, Nurse…  I’m waiting for you.

When I arrived at the hospital, it felt like I was in a new world.  The vibe was intense.  The normal glut of visitors at the security desk were missing.  No medical students rushing past me running late for rounds.  It was almost like a lockdown.  Almost.

As of today, our ambulatory surgery center was officially CLOSED.  All those nurses and surgical techs sent home until April 15th.  What the…..???  Our main operating room OR (where I work) cancelled all elective surgeries per the recommendation of the American College of Surgeons and our government (I’m assuming).  The monitor with our status board was depleted of its normally extensive list of cases.  Instead, a teeny tiny list.  It was so surreal.  We are talking a BIG surgery department that typically performs a lot of procedures now down to a select few.

Makes you want to rub your eyes to make sure you’re not seeing things…  But no…  Hands away from your face!

Because of the small number of cases, some nurses and techs had already been asked to stay home.  We called this “being low censused”.  Basically, this means that there isn’t enough work for them so they are being mandated to stay home, and use their vacation time if they want to get paid.  One day here and there isn’t bad…  But what if the hospital does the same thing to us as our ambulatory surgery colleagues who are off for a whole month?  I hate to even think about this…

I was assigned to circulate three orthopedic cases which kept me busy most of the day.  During slower moments, my mind kept spinning different scenarios on what would happen to me and my co-workers should the number of COVID-19 patients rise in our institution.  It is too soon to say.  Many nurses want answers as if this virus was planned or as if our administrators had been through this kind of crisis before.

NO ONE HAS EXPERIENCED THIS BEFORE.

What a scary thought.  We are looking for guidance, but sometimes those above us cannot figure out the best course of action fast enough.  I would like to believe that everyone is doing the best that they can.  The only thing any of us can do it take it one day at a time, be practical and not panic. 

I know in my heart, we will get through this…  We just need to hang on to hope and find a way to be kind to each other through this frightening time.