Storyteller: Angela Wolfin
Ann is 28 years old and lives in Saginaw County, Michigan. In January of 2020 she began her first year working as a Registered Nurse. She had very little time to get used to working on her own in the Intensive Care Unit when the COVID-19 pandemic made its way to Michigan. Ann was busy getting used to her new career when she heard on the news about other states having problems with a virus. Soon after, the hospital she works for began to prepare her unit for their own virus patients as the illness spread across the county.
Almost overnight everything changed. Ann began wearing personal protective equipment while working in the unit except when and if she gets a chance to eat lunch. When entering patient’s rooms who are diagnosed as probable or confirmed infection with COVID-19, she was required to wear a CAPR which is a positive pressure helmet with a face shield, gloves, and a gown. Once that began, her unit officially became The Covid Unit. It did not take long for Ann to realize that when she wears a mask covering her face, it makes it difficult for some patients to understand what she is saying. If she wears the CAPR, the motor and blowing air make it difficult for her to understand those patients who speak softly.
As the number of patients admitted with the COVID-19 virus began to rise, staffing shortages became a problem and Ann was required to work more hours. She has had to learn how to manage patients who are on ventilators because there are less respiratory therapists than there are nurses and more patients on ventilators than normal.
As the war against COVID-19 has raged on, she has noticed things that she had not before. Her patients now seem nervous when she enters the room wearing a gown and mask. Her coworkers are making jokes more often to try to lighten the mood. Burn out and fatigue is a constant shadow following Ann and her coworkers each day as they care for patients who are struggling to survive. They have witnessed too many deaths and there seems to be no end to the pandemic in sight. Ann has even lost her uncle to COVID-19.
Ann has learned that it is acceptable to show emotion during this pandemic. Holding in the pain and sorrow from the deaths she has witnessed will only lead to the burn out and fatigue that she and her coworkers are trying to prevent. The message Ann would like to share is, be kind to medical professionals especially those caring for Covid patients. They are carrying the burden of their own feelings about the pandemic as well as those of their patients and families.