May 11-17, 2020 is National Nurses Week in Canada. An important week each year where we take the time to thank all of the amazing nurses for the selfless and integral work they do. At HSH we regularly witness firsthand the care and dedication nurses show towards our clients during their recovery. This year, the devotion and sacrifice of nurses has become even more apparent across the globe as we hear countless stories about nurses working to help others during the COVID-19 pandemic.
In honour of Nurses Week this year, we wanted to share some of those nurses’ stories with you and ask that you join us in saying the most heartfelt of thanks to them for their tireless efforts.
Colleen MacPherson’s Story
Length of nursing career: 28 years
Current role: Critical Care Nurse, ICU Department (Lakeridge Health Oshawa)
We all watched the news from China and Europe as the pandemic started. Thankfully for the public, it is hard to conceptualize a total global outbreak until it happens, otherwise everyone would have begun to panic. But watching newscasts from those areas brought flashbacks of my experience during SARS so I had panic attacks before COVID-19 really even reached Canada.
Once it began here I realized I had forgotten how stressful the time during the SARS outbreak was. I was able to get my fear under control and I pushed forward. Once COVID-19 was here I began to see the younger nurses go through what I had just gone through. We saw people seemingly randomly contract the virus, before the public even accepted it was here, so we had early, firsthand exposure to how bad the virus really was and how hard patients were fighting it.
I don’t think we appreciated how this virus would affect us personally because health care workers deal with infectious diseases 24/7, but COVD-19 was something completely different and unfortunately, it quickly became obvious that this virus was going to be way worse than SARS. The stress is different. The pressure is different. The Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) requirements are different.
We have learned that yesterday’s forms of protection were inadequate – not only from what was used during SARS, but we are working in a different world than just a few months ago.
We needed to learn how to better protect ourselves with more layers and different methods of handwashing. Isolation is no longer just a curtain between patients. Heppa filters, negative pressure air flow and PPE’s like N95 masks all have policies and procedures to protect us from transmission.
It’s not easy being in multiple layers of protective gear and trying not to panic about how I’m going to do my job in the ICU. The need to be in an N95 mask and layers of PPE while trying to see through the sweat dripping down your face and fogging up your mask is hard to get used to. The N95’s are tough on your face and you get dehydrated easily from sweating. Trying to manage under all the PPE has become the hardest part of my job.
While the PPE struggle is something we are physically struggling with, it’s to say nothing of the emotional toll working with patients during the pandemic is taking. Perhaps the saddest part of their fight is that loved ones are not allowed to be with them while they are sick. Far too many of us nurses have had to hold up a phone to a dying patient so their loved ones could say goodbye. It is heartbreaking.
Through all of this we continue to show up to work so we can care and advocate for our patients. It’s what we trained for, what we signed up for – pandemic or otherwise. I think COVID-19 has given society a new respect for us healthcare workers and what we go through every day.
Nursing is the toughest job you’ll ever love.