Submitted by McGill Ingram nursing
October 30, 2020

The era of Covid19 is a very scary and trying time. When it all started, I was about to finish nursing school and I was working as a float team orderly every weekend. When it first started to rise, I remember being worried but not quite realizing how serious and scary it was, one could say I was in denial. When quarantine had started and school had been put on hold, I remember following the rules of quarantine very strictly. The only time I would get out of the house was for work. I was forced to work full time.

I can remember the specific moment that I realized how serious the pandemic was and how it wasn’t going to be a “quick fix”. I called in before my shift to see where I was going to work that day. I was told that I was going to be a sitter for a confused patient in the red zone of the ER. When I arrived at the office to receive my assignment, I was told that I would not be provided with PPE as I was a float orderly and they only had enough for the ER staff. I was used to being treated differently being part of the float team, but it was never life-threatening like this situation. Being that I was still so new to the health care system I rarely stood up for myself but in this situation, I stood up for not only my safety but for the safety of the people living with me. It was only after refusing to work if I wasn’t provided proper ocular protection that they finally gave me the proper PPE. The reason they gave for not needing to provide PPE was that she was “only rule out”. With the proper PPE I was able to provide the proper care for this woman such as giving her bed baths and making sure she wasn’t getting up out of her bed without any assistance. As the day progressed, we had gotten news that she was Covid19 positive. Suddenly the poor fearful woman was transferred to a negative pressure room. It was so heartbreaking to see her make the call to her family that she was diagnosed with Covid19 and that she was not doing well. After providing care and emotional support I went for my break. After finally having a minute to realize everything that had went down broke down. So many thoughts were racing in my head. What would’ve happened if I didn’t push to get the PPE? What is going to happen to this sweet woman? I don’t have a car, but should I be going on public transit to go to work and possibly exposing everyone? Should I try to get a hotel to live in during the pandemic so that I don’t expose my family? I was so fearful but mostly I was filled with guilt for all the people I was possibly exposing. I knew I had to go to work because we were becoming so understaffed and the healthcare system was struggling.

The only way I was able to get through that very difficult time was with the frequent phone calls to my mom. She too started her nursing career during a pandemic, the HIV pandemic. I was able to talk through my feelings of guilt, the fear I had coming home, the feelings of isolation I had since I only stayed in my room, and the horrors I saw when being sent to a CHSLD. I was getting so burnt out and I truly don’t know how I would’ve made it through that period of my life without the frequent facetime calls with my mom.

Through this whole experience, I learned not only the importance of standing up for myself (especially in the workspace) but also the importance of support from my loved ones. Before the pandemic, I took advantage of the fact that I could see my family and friends whenever I want, which isn’t the reality anymore.