COVID-19 definitely took the world by storm and by surprise. I remember hearing about COVID-19’s onset and thinking to myself, “This is far away and will probably blow over soon.” Little did I know how wrong my assumptions were. A few months later, we got wind of positive COVID-19 cases in Canada, and then we started having patients who were positive at LHSC. I cannot begin to explain to you how terrified I was when I was told that we had COVID-19 positive cases in our hospital.
Prior to the pandemic, I supported the Medicine team at University Hospital, specifically the Subacute Medicine Unit (SAMU), as well as the Transitional Care Unit (TCU) at Kensington Village Long-Term Care Home. At both TCU and the hospital, we initially wore masks only when caring for patients who were under investigation for COVID-19 or who were positive. We quickly moved to wearing masks in all patient care areas and eventually to wearing them all day at work. This was definitely a huge adjustment.
Long-Term Care (LTC) homes were hit hard by the pandemic. This resulted in new regulations prohibiting staff from working in two different health-care organizations, in an effort to curb transmission to the vulnerable populations in LTC. There was a halt of residents returning to LTC homes from hospital upon discharge. I had to stop going to Kensington Village physically, supporting patients there virtually instead. My role continued to evolve and change as different needs arose, including supporting Acute Medicine.
Supporting TCU virtually was quite interesting as it was my first experience with virtual health care, which comes with its own set of challenges. This involved assessing patients via phone, as well as learning to trust the nurses and staff at TCU to be my hands and feet. The joy I saw on my patients’ faces when we connected online was definitely worth the effort. Families were also worried and concerned about their loved ones whom they couldn’t visit, so I was often the bridge between families and their loved ones, to provide up to date information and to allay fears. The Patient Experience department at LHSC facilitated communication between inpatients and their families by providing access to iPads. This made such a huge impact on patients in isolation.
I often came in to work with mixed feelings; there was a small fear of contracting the virus but there was also a sense of fulfilment that I was making a difference by being there for my patients. There were a lot of unknowns about this virus that we were all encountering for the first time. I was, however, thankful that LHSC ensured the availability of PPE for its employees. My team members cooperated and supported one another to make it through each day safely.
I feared bringing COVID-19 home to my family. I had a talk with my kids explaining to them how they could not hug me when I came through the doors after work. This was hard and strange, but necessary. I literally isolated myself from my family for weeks. The early days were mentally exhausting. Another struggle for me was not being able to assist my kids much with their online schooling. My kids had to literally homeschool themselves during this time as my partner and I both had to go to work at the hospital.
Overall, I will say I am glad that the pandemic has eased off and I am happy to not have had a COVID-19 positive patient on my team for awhile. We hope things continue to get better as we respect the rules and regulations put in place by our organization and the government.