VHF is proud to spotlight Krista Davidson as a nominee for VHF Volunteer of the Year in 2020. Krista has been actively involved with VHF since 2015 and is the co-chair of the VHF/HACA Advocacy Committee, has volunteered her time creating and facilitating numerous advocacy education sessions, was elected to HFA’s inaugural Advocacy Leadership Council, and is very involved in fundraising for the VHF Unite for Bleeding Disorders Walk. At the VHF/HACA Virtual Advocacy Chat in April, Krista shared her personal story of working in a hospital setting during this time of COVID-19. We were so moved that we asked her to share her story for this months’ newsletter. As it turns out this week is National Nurses Week so it seems fitting to honor her work as a nurse. Join us in honoring and thanking Krista for all she does to support this community!
My Experience of Covid-19 as a Nurse:
There are billions of Covid-19 stories throughout the world and my experience seems like a raindrop in a rainstorm. I have been a nurse for 19 short years. My current specialty is Palliative Care. I take care of patients with serious illness needing symptom management, at end of life.
I am not directly taking care of Covid-19 patients at this time, but I am impacted nonetheless. My first memories of Covid-19 in the hospital were after the State of Emergency declaration back in March. I remember our nurse supervisors collecting all the masks in the hospital and asking for extra equipment to be taken to the ER. Later that same day, a Code Green was announced. This meant that the hospital was preparing for a surge of patients. I was not allowed to leave after my shift was over that night. I had to be available to assist in whatever way was asked of me and by that point I was panicking, on the inside of course.
Eventually, we did get to go home but the sense of fear and uncertainty set in and still remains. I have seen an enormous amount of changes throughout my hospital since that day in March, starting with our ER. Walls were put up, negative pressure rooms were added, and the flow of the ER altered. PUI’s (patients under investigation) and diagnosed Covid-19 patients have been sequestered to the 8th floor of the hospital for fear of contaminating the rest. I remember sitting in a nearly empty cafeteria one day and overheard a comment from a maintenance worker who said “I went to the 8th floor, it’s creepy.”
As the days went on, elective procedures and doctor’s appointments were cancelled. Work from home was advised, if it was applicable to you. All council meetings were cancelled, volunteer programs shut down, and nursing student clinicals were stopped. Visitors are not allowed except for a few, and having to explain to patients loved ones that they cannot be at their side when they’re dying, is gut-wrenching.
Doctors that I work with are considered high risk for contracting Covid-19. Some have made the heartbreaking decision to send their kids away to live with relatives until this passes. Can you imagine? Police are at the front door of the hospital 24/7 helping to control visitation. Sometimes, I feel like a superhero walking through the front door with my badge on. Other times, my anxiety and fear get the best of me. I never know what I’m going to walk into that day. I wonder, what has changed today? Or worse, what if I carry sickness into my home tonight?
I remember coming home one evening and racing down the stairs to get out of my uniform after hearing my six-year old running through the house to greet me and give me a hug. One weekend, 90% of staff on a unit close by were placed in quarantine when one of their patients became symptomatic. Thankfully, the patient was tested and days later found to be negative. Staff were able to return to work.
There have been many, many stages of having/wearing personal protective equipment or PPE. The guidelines on wearing PPE keep evolving as new information comes from the CDC and more gear arrives (slowly). Currently, my whole head is covered, all 12 hours. I am grateful for the equipment but I have to calm myself throughout the day with deep breaths, it can be suffocating.
Patient units are closing (temporarily) and consolidating due to the decrease in patient volume. My little 10 bed unit has been prepped to become an instant ICU if/when necessary. We don’t know where our staff and patients will be moved to if that were to happen. Some staff have had their hours cut, pay decreased, or have been furloughed. Some are being retrained for other positions. Expenses have increased, the hospital is losing money, worry is growing.
It’s not known when we’re going to end up on the other side of this and despite the grim picture, I am hopeful too. As much negativity as we see, there is a plethora of positivity to help counteract it. The human connection is inspiring. Our community is rallying around us every day. We are all supporting each other and I know we will get ourselves put back together, piece by piece. We may not look the same when we come out of this, but I look forward to whatever our new normal will be.