RN: Encouraging COVID-19 caution
Providence nurse: focus on prevention to protect hospital resources
Last updated 12/28/2020 at 6:46pm
By Cathy Johnson
RN, Mill Creek resident
Nurse Manager, Providence Regional Medical Center Everett
I have been a nurse for many years. All of my experience has been in the hospital environment, and I love my work. I was at the bedside when the HIV/AIDS epidemic started in the 1980s, followed by time treating people for hantavirus, SARS (2002-03), and H1N1. But by far the hardest time in my career has been during the COVID-19 pandemic.
It has been well publicized that the first known patient in the US with COVID-19 was treated at Providence Regional Medical Center Everett. We were well prepared with a specially trained, multi-disciplinary team to care for the patient. Things went well, and that patient recovered and returned to our local community.
What we did not know about at the time was the growing wave of similar patients that were just about to arrive. Along with those patients came an unknown pandemic and unending questions. Would we have enough staff and supplies? Would we know how to treat these patients? Would we get COVID-19 ourselves or give it to our families?
Our nation and the world were learning to care for these patients and treat the disease on a day-to-day basis. Information and care guidelines changed by the hour. All of our frontline caregivers and first responders were scared. Everyone was scared. Most had never lived through a pandemic, and we had no idea that our financial, social, and family norms would be impacted. For example, some frontline health care workers temporarily moved away from their families to avoid the possibility of exposing them.
Throughout it all, the staff at the hospital never wavered, despite taking care of a type of patient that they had never known before. COVID-19 is a disease that can become life threatening in a matter of minutes. The staff's resolve, knowledge, and stamina were tested each shift. For their own safety, families were not allowed to visit patients, which meant the staff supported patients through life and death. It was – and still is – a very hard job. Elective surgeries were halted, and it became difficult to receive medical treatment for even the most common services. In a time of such medical need, many hospitals closed because they could not continue the financially sustaining elective surgeries and treatments needed to keep them open.
Then came spring and summer, and the cases decreased, and everyone tried to stay outside and take a breath of relief. Many tried to follow the ongoing restrictions – but some did not. Summer gatherings, boat trips, and community activities kept the virus alive while we waited for fall. Now, a few weeks after Thanksgiving and with Christmas approaching, the number of community cases is higher than during the initial outbreak, and it continues to rise daily.
Safety recommendations are ignored, and once again people are ill and dying. The number of COVID-19 patients at our hospital is now climbing to previous levels. This is an incredibly serious issue, yet it seems we have become deaf to the warnings. Unbelievably, I had someone ask me last week if I thought COVID-19 was real. I was speechless. I have seen it kill all ages, and I have seen families suffering. If we do not make immediate changes, many more lives are at risk. Our hospitals may not be able to handle a resurging health care crisis.
While it is great news that the first vaccine was recently approved, initial quantities are limited, and it will take many months for the general public to be immunized. We cannot let our guard down in the meantime.
As a health care worker I am pleading with you to take action. Stay away from crowds, limit gatherings to your household, and wear your mask. When I go to work each shift, I try to make a small difference in the crisis. As a community, we have the opportunity to make a huge difference and to change the way COVID-19 affects our friends and families. Please, do your part to keep yourself, your family, and others safe.
• This editorial was requested through Providence to assure authenticity of the source.
• "SARS" referred to in this letter is the 2002-03 outbreak. COVID-19 is also in the SARS category of viral illness.
• A new mRNA vaccine by Pfizer/BionTech has received emergency use approval by the FDA, in an effort to prevent COVID-19. The vaccine is in the early stages of distribution. Health care workers are in the group to get the vaccine in the first wave, happening now. It is a two-dose inoculation. Plans are in place to vaccinate according to risk-factors and availability. The next wave of vaccinations will occur as supplies become available. Another vaccine by Moderna was scheduled for emergency use consideration by the FDA beginning on Dec. 17: https://bit.ly/3me0LDD.