Wed, Apr 15 2020
As a nurse in the ICU (intensive care unit), my experience with COVID-19 has meant caring for those most physically affected by the virus. Most if not all of those I care for are on ventilators and require high levels of medical support while they fight for their lives. This has brought many bad days: to fight so hard alongside someone, only to see them lose their battle, leaves such a heartbreaking and helpless feeling. That being said, there have been many good days, like when we can successfully remove the life support and hear a parent speak to their child for the first time in weeks. Furthermore, to receive so much love, kindness, and support from the community has been so heartwarming during an otherwise overwhelming experience.
Like every other family, COVID-19 has affected my family in many ways. We have had to adapt in small ways such as cooking from home or limiting our interpersonal interactions. We've also had to adapt to larger changes, such as the ever-present fear that I will bring this virus home to my loved ones. Most notably, one of my grandparents has been diagnosed with COVID-19; so while I fight hard to take care of people/patients who are strangers to me, I have to trust that healthcare professionals are doing the same to take care of my own family.
There are several challenges that healthcare providers are struggling with: a growing number of patients, decreasing supplies, fear for our patients, and fear for our families. But perhaps the biggest struggle is the unknown. Not knowing how long this will last, not knowing how to best keep people and ourselves safe, not knowing if/when I will become sick too.
The mental and emotional damage that this pandemic has had on frontline workers will far outlive any other physical impact. If I could ask one thing of our community, it would be that their support continues not only through today, but in the months to come.
Hannah Higgins is an ICU nurse in Washington DC.
Resources and related articles on healthcare workers and how to support them:
Headspace is offering any US-based healthcare professional with a National Provider Identifier (NPI) a free subscription to Headspace Plus through December 31, 2020. AMA members can get a 2-year subscription for free through AMA Member Benefits Plus