The coronavirus pandemic has impacted hundreds of thousands all over the world, from the young to the old. Everyone is experiencing uncertainty and fear because of how drastically this virus has affected people’s personal lives, as well as the economy and government. People have been told to stay inside their homes unless it is absolutely necessary to leave, however there are some who don’t have that option. These are the people working on the front lines to battle this virus.
*One of the interviewee’s asked to not have the name of their hospital mentioned in this piece due to working guidelines.
When asking Colleen, an employee at Dartmouth Hitchcock hospital in New Hampshire, if the coronavirus has impacted her traveling to and from work she said “It really hasn’t impacted my commute because I drive one mile.” Luckily for Colleen she lives very close to where she works, however others do not have that same convenience. Some frontline workers have to battle traffic traffic, the distance from home to work, and what shifts they are working. Colleen works over nights, which gives her the advantage of avoiding rush hour on her way to the hospital.
When asked about what steps/precautions the hospital has taken to ensure the safety of employees Colleen explains, “I took care of the first COVID-19 patient, so there wasn’t much in place then. However, we are now testing more frequently and have classes to teach us how to use the personal protection equipment (PPE) needed.” They have also dedicated floors to COVID-positive patients in order to keep cross-contamination low. “We are also required to wear masks and face shields at all times.”
Because of Colleen’s exposure to the first COVID-19 patient in her hospital, she explained that she was quarantined for fourteen days following. “For me, it was extremely difficult because I was completely alone in an apartment. I couldn’t even go outside. I kept busy by talking to friends and sleeping, but it was extremely difficult.” Colleen’s friends and family dropped groceries off at her front steps, and some even went the extra mile and brought new scrubs and cleaning equipment for her to clean her home with.
Colleen went on to explain, “My cardiac floor has had one positive, who we moved to the appropriate floor. Then we have multiple, what they call ‘rule-outs,’ so they either start on my unit and are moved to the right floor, or they are admitted to the ‘rule-out’ floor. Once their tests are negative, they can go back to a non-COVID floor.”
All hospitals operate under different guidelines, but they all working towards the same goal; keeping people safe and healthy.
When talking to Chelsea, an employee at a Boston hospital, she explained that she previously used public transportation, but with the change in hours and cut-backs, it became easier for her to either walk, or have her boyfriend drive her. When it comes to the city, public transportation is often the most efficient option for workers, but when that is taken away, it forces them to find an alternative, which can be difficult for some.
When asked what precautions Chelsea’s hospital have taken to keep her safe during this pandemic, she said explained that all employees and patients have to maintain the CDC’s six-feet-rule, and that patients and employees use separate entrances, where they are screened and asked if they have experienced any symptoms from a printed list. “We then badge in and are given a mask to wear for the day. On the floor, we are given a specialty mask and glasses which we use throughout the day, unless it becomes spoiled, then we get another.” Chelsea’s hospital also utilizes the ‘rule-out’ method and has designated rooms for ‘rule-out’ patients to stay in. “We have daily call-ins with the floor for updates.”
The conversation then led to what she’s done outside of work to keep herself safe. “I had already washed my hands prior, but now I feel like all I do is wash my hands.” Chelsea was lucky enough to have been gifted a box of gloves from her family and wears her mask to the grocery store. After work, she strips off her scrubs and throws them in the laundry and uses a mix of a Lysol detergent and another extra-strength detergent to ensure her work clothes are extra-sanitary. “After my scrubs come off, I get right into the shower before talking to anyone, just to be safe.”
Although all healthcare workers are trying to achieve the same goal, they all have different roles in their respective workplaces. This is the case with Brandi, who is an ultrasound technician at Parkland Medical Center in Derry, New Hampshire. When asked about the number of patients who have tested positive for the coronavirus in the hospital Brandi said, “It increases/changes every day. I stopped following it because it made me nervous and I didn’t want it to affect me. To me it doesn’t matter because anyone who enters the hospital, Corona or not, needs help and if I can help them, I want to.” Although she has not directly dealt with COVID-19 patients, she has seen around six people being tested.
From there, our conversation shifted towards what her hospital is doing to keep her and other employees safe, to which she explained, “My hospital has limited the staff and set a no visitors policy. They are also screening everyone who enters the hospital by asking questions and taking temperatures. We are also given a sticker with a date on it so people know we’ve gone through the screening process. They also give everyone a mask to wear at all times, as well as giving a cleaning log to each department. That needs to be completed every two hours.”
To wrap things up we talked about some of the habits Brandi practices outside of the work environment to keep herself safe. She explained that she wipes the inside of her car down and immediately washes her scrubs upon coming home, as well. Next, she takes a shower to wash off anything she may have accidentally brought home with her. “After showering I wipe down all of the door knobs and light switches I have touched. After wiping everything down I go to the sink to wash my hands and arms.”
Overall, this pandemic has been tough on everyone, but especially those who work in direct contact with COVID-19 patients daily.