The Coronavirus is on all of our minds. How serious is it really? Does it warrant closing down schools and parks? Are we all losing our minds? Though all of us have been affected by it, I’d say the biggest majority of people who are truly affected by it are those in the medical field who are fighting it every day.
They see people die, their system is being overrun, their supplies are being stolen, and they don’t have enough access to testing. Worst of all, many of them are dying as they try to fight this pandemic. They are frustrated, and scared, that people aren’t taking this seriously. “There is not one among us who is not frightened stepping through these hospital doors each day to simply continue doing our job,” Dawn Aldinger, a 59-year-old longtime nurse in Seattle, told BuzzFeed News. “I, for one, have updated my will as I am doubtful I will survive this healthcare crisis.” That is truly frightening.
But what about the healthcare workers who have a family? Who have children that they have to go home to, and husbands? In China, healthcare workers were given full body protective gear, complete head coverings, N95 particle filtering masks, and hazmat suits. They were also housed away from their families. Here, we do not have that option. Mothers are scared for their children’s lives, and still go to work and risk themselves everyday. Mothers already have a hard job, with raising a family, cooking meals, homeschooling their children… Add on an epidemic and being exposed, and that job gets infinitely harder. And so today, I interviewed someone who is directly in contact with Covid19. Not only is she a healthcare worker, she’s also a mother. She can offer a unique perspective about this pandemic and the response.
Hi there! So first, tell us a little about yourself and what you do.
So I am a Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP). I have been an RN for approximately 9 years and an FNP for 3.5 of those years. Prior to that, I worked in a pathology lab so my years in the medical field are approximately 13. Currently I work in a medical clinic with a large homeless population.
So you’re a mom and also in the medical field. How does that play out with the Covid19 pandemic? I have always prided myself on making my son feel safe. He is six years old. He has been the light of my life since I found out I was pregnant. Love as a word just does not touch what I feel for this sweet boy. I was a registered nurse working on a cardiac step down unit in the hospital until he was around 3. I took so many precautions not to bring anything home with me. I left shoes at work, I cleaned everything before I walked out. One of the selling points for primary care after graduate school was less exposure to infectious diseases. I mean that risk is always there in medicine and I accept that, but it is on a lesser scale. Fast forward to last night. I did not do any home school lessons (while school is out) with Zachary last night because I was exhausted from work. Mom fail. I fed my child a less than nutritious meal because it was easy. I mean, it was ok: hot dog, applesauce, chips. We had the buns though and I did not want them to go to waste because I’m also worried about the barren grocery shelves. I went to say goodnight to him later and casually asked how he would feel if Mama went to stay in the basement for a little while. That went over horribly. I’m not at the point of isolating from my family yet, but I wanted to see what he thought because, as my ability to protect myself dwindles, I become a risk to him and my husband. I pulled his covers up and thought how many times I did this and did not think twice about it. Right now there may come a point, where for his protection, I have to be absent from these small moments. How will that affect him? Will that be traumatizing? I cannot even tell him for how long because Donald Trump just said he wants everything opened back up as soon as possible with little regard to already taxed healthcare employees. What happens if I get sick? And God forbid there are complications. Then I would be a statistic that my son would have to deal with for the rest of his life and I would miss all the moments. That is what being a mom or dad in the medical field right now is.
What are your opinions on Covid19 as a healthcare worker? I think COVID-19 is a public health nightmare. We are scared. We are worried. I say we because when I go to work we are a team. I know that sounds cheesy but literally, the pronoun “we” is what comes to my mind when I speak of myself in regards to this pandemic. We do all these things together. We are afraid for our patients. We have such a vulnerable population. When you do not have a home it is difficult to quarantine. When you do not have a place where water runs how do you wash your hands? We are doing the best we can to protect these human beings from falling ill. If this population gets sick it will be so difficult to contain.
How has this affected your job? My job, how has this affected it? It has turned it upside down. The tension is thick every day because we are scared. We face those fears but that does not mean it is easy. We are not able to see as many chronic conditions visits, the visits where people come in and we check the status of their chronic conditions for changes and fill medications. These are often times that we also find new problems that need attention. I hate that these have to be postponed. If a patient does need to see us because they have a new problem they are absolutely able to do so but we are encouraging that if someone is stable they stay home.
Our waiting room is usually a place of refuge for some patients. They sit there and feel safe. Unfortunately, we can not do that right now. There is too much risk to put tons of people in a small area together. In fact, we are actually implementing IPADS for visits that do not require me to touch a patient. While the power of touch is important, I support this because I do not want to infect people who are well if I am exposed to COVID-19. We will take precautions when seeing patients who have needs that require physical evaluation.
What is some advice you have as a healthcare worker and mother?
I do not think people are taking this seriously enough. I do not know why. People do not like to be told what to do by authority. In addition, a lot of people do not trust the media and feel this is being sensationalized. Some people take cues from our president who downplayed it initially and now makes it seem like we can wrap this up on a specific timeline. My advice as a healthcare provider is to pay attention to what is issued by CDC, WHO, and local health departments. Listen to their doctor’s office. Wash hands and limit public contacts. Go to the grocery store but adhere to the 6 foot rule. Take your kid on a walk or hike-but if you pull up and the parking lot is full maybe go down to the next trail. Just try to stay home so we can flatten the curve.
People are scared to death, healthcare workers are being worked to exhaustion, and mothers are at their breaking point. We must do everything we can to “flatten the curve.” We need to push for more supplies for those in the medical field, and always honor our healthcare workers in whatever way we can. So stay home when you can, wash your hands often, stay six feet apart from people at all times, and self quarantine if necessary. And, most importantly, give it up for the healthcare worker mothers and fathers out there.