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Reflections on 2020 and today: a team’s daily fears and compassionate courage

Soul-changing experiences fighting a virus that doesn’t discriminate.

BEHIND THE DOORS ON A COVID-19 UNIT

We are the Daly 6A team at Baystate Medical Center. We are registered nurses, patient care technicians, and operations assistants who have taken care of COVID-19 patients since the first days of the pandemic.

I think people might be surprised how scared and nervous we still feel before every shift, not knowing what kind of day it is going to be. Are my patients going to be stable and maybe go home or will I need to perform CPR to try to save someone’s life? Will I lose another patient to COVID-19?

Prior to this global pandemic, we were an Acute Care for the Elderly (ACE) specialty unit, caring for older adults admitted to the hospital. Although this age group has been affected by the virus more than any other, our team cares for patients of all ages with COVID-19. This virus does not discriminate.

We provide essential treatment with PPE precautions including gowns, N95 masks, shields and googles. We sweat through our scrubs within the first hour. We play a critical role in escalating care for our most at-risk patients, as well as performing other jobs on the unit because other disciplines are not allowed to be on the unit. We pass out all meal trays, we empty sharps containers, linen and trash. We are key in triaging and escalating care, and we navigate PPE and isolation procedures to ensure our patients and all of our staff are safe. Rules and procedures change frequently as the pandemic continues and knowledge about the virus changes. We have to be flexible to maintain safety for ourselves, patients, and the community.

Many of our staff stayed in hotels the first few months of the pandemic and many still stay in other parts of their homes away from their children, husbands etc.

Our staff has maintained social distancing to its fullest to keep our families and communities safe. We are holding it together for our patients, families and other health care professionals who are looking to us for answers, support, and care, but sometimes we are just as scared and exhausted. Burnout does not even describe the feeling.

However, we feel hopeful since we know more about this virus now and can prevent many critical situations and identify higher risk patients who may need an increased level of care. Our assessments, treatments and procedures for COVID-19 patients have improved greatly. And with the vaccines here now, we see light at the end of a dark tunnel.

The knowledge and clinical experience gained during this pandemic is incredibly rewarding. This has humbled us all and provided us with a vast amount of knowledge that will forever be incorporated in our practice. The absolute most rewarding part of our work is witnessing and being a part of our patients’ success stories.

These patients are terrified and many of them are very ill. To see them struggle and fight for their lives and watch them be successful in their battle is the most humbling of feelings. To hold the hand of a person who thinks they are dying and help them find their inner strength and courage to beat this is soul changing. It is the most life- changing feeling in the world to be a part of these lives and an honor to be a part of this team and to be a hero on the front line.

KEEPING US ALL SAFE

We're doing everything we can to provide safe care across Baystate Health. Whether you need to visit the ED for an emergency or you're coming in for a visit, we assure you that we are taking detailed measures to keep you safe.

LEARN MORE ABOUT COVID-19 SAFETY