The draw of working as a registered nurse in the Emergency Department at Victoria Hospital has always been exciting to me: dealing with high patient volumes, making critical decisions, and never knowing what is coming through the door. When I first heard of COVID-19 I did not think much of it because it seemed worlds away. As the virus began to devastate other countries, there were changes starting in my emergency department that made for a constant knot in my stomach, a fear of the unknown. Isolation rooms were created overnight, bathrooms turned into anterooms (which are small, sterile rooms staff and physicians would go through before entering a patient’s room), and ever-changing patient flow guidelines in the department outlining which patients could go where based on symptoms. I remember thinking ‘if this virus does kill me as it has so many others, I will have spent the last weeks of my life alone, scared, and isolated from family and friends’; however, my coworkers became more like family, sometimes being my only face-to-face human interaction apart from my husband at home.
Everything changed: some of the strongest people I know were asking if their eyes were still red from crying the whole way to work, watching management go through the department locking up masks to ration out to you in changing quantities, and new emails outlining department changes sent every hour it seemed. The relationships in the emergency department built by years of trust, teamwork, and critical thinking are what have got us through COVID-19 thus far. Together we shared our doubts, fears, and concerns with each other sometimes through tearful texts, phone calls, and hallway conversations as the unknown mounted each day. I do not believe that the patient care we delivered faltered at any moment because no matter what, we always seemed to band together and get through the shift. Going home after a shift left your mind racing. Did I wear the right mask with a proper fit? Was that patient going to be positive for COVID-19? We never knew.
Although I work at a fairly stressful job, I do not consider myself to be a stressed person, so anxiously lying awake at night, mentally preparing for my first shift back in my rotation was a foreign concept. My experience I’m sure is not a unique one, many having to endure much more each day, but overall, I am proud to be a registered nurse especially working in the Emergency Department at Victoria Hospital with my amazing colleagues. A special thank you to my family and friends that sent encouraging texts, dropped dinner off, and simply expressed their thanks. These are the people that got me through the first - and hopefully last - pandemic of my career.