Things they don’t teach you in nursing school:
- Pandemics are terrifying.
- How to set up a makeshift Intensive Care Unit in 48 hours.
- The sinking feeling that the excellent care and the abundant resources that we are used to providing our community was being stretched and depleted.
- Knowing how to ration PPE.
- The right words to comfort a scared patient.
- How to fill in for someone’s family when they can’t be there.
- How to write backwards on the windows so your teammates outside can read what you need.
- Reading people's eyes because that's all you can see.
- It’s okay to be scared, your team will get you through it.
- How to get off a treadmill when it’s going full speed.
Before COVID-19, I was a charge nurse and in critical care. This experience was completely different.
Usually, I really know the patient’s entire clinical story. ICU nurses know every detail of their patient’s care.
Leading a COVID-19 unit was as much about supporting the staff and making sure they had the resources they needed, as it was about knowing the patients. We were not able to get to know the patients as intimately as we usually do because the pace was just so different.
This all happened so fast. It was scary. It was terrifying. Terrifying.
It took us a week or two to kind of figure out what this, “new normal,” is going to look like because you’re on a unit that was not utilized as an ICU before this moment.
The first two weeks were overwhelming. Over time, I realized how to adapt and work with what we had. We learned to shift our perspective and focus on the team and supporting each other while striving to provide the best care possible to our patients. I was able to focus less on what we were missing and more on that our patients were safe and our staff felt supported. My job was caring for the caregivers.
We were a team of various disciplines coming together and learning to work as a team. Frequently in the unit you would hear “oh, let me show you what we do for this.” or, “this will help y'all at some point.” or, “I’ll go get you that from my unit.” It was inspiring to see the teamwork and how nurses rose up and grew to fill new roles. I've only been in nursing for eight years, but in just these eight years, the autonomy of nursing has grown. Nurses are the ones who are there with the patient when things start to change, and they're the ones who often determine what needs to be done first to stabilize the situation.
Nurses are the first on the scene.
My mom always said, “I always knew you’d be a nun or a nurse.” I don’t have any medical professionals in the family, and I don’t know where the nursing came from, but I went with it and I love it. As difficult as this time is, I still remain in awe by the perseverance of our teams. The innovation and ingenuity demonstrated makes me proud to be a nurse, and that is something no one can teach.
I Always Knew You’d Be A Nun Or NurseSarah Owens