Let’s Talk About My Experience as a COVID Nurse

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When the Covid pandemic rushed onto the scene in the spring of 2020, nurse Anna Jacobs volunteered to be a part of the team of caregivers that worked the front lines to fight the virus. Relatively young in her career and age, Anna felt that she would be in a better place to work with the life-threatening virus, without causing risk to many others in her life. Over the weeks and months that followed, she experienced more than she had planned on. Listen as she describes her journey as a Covid nurse.

Intro:

Thanks for joining us for this episode of Centra Scripts, where we talk health and wellness and practical tips for your everyday life. And now here’s your host, Kate Kolb.

Kate Kolb:

Well, thanks for joining us on Centra Scripts for another episode. We’re so glad that you’re here with us today. And I am really excited about this episode, because I get to sit down with one of our nurses here at Centra, Anna Jacobs. And she has been just a delight to talk to so far, and I’m really excited because she has actually been a part of our nursing staff that has had the opportunity to work on one of our COVID units. And so we’re going to get some insights from her today on what that’s been like. Anna, thank you for being here today. I so appreciate it. Can you just tell us a little bit about your background, and kind of what brought you to Centra, and why you chose nursing?

Anna Jacobs:

My name is Anna Jacobs, as you said. I went to Centra College of Nursing. I graduated in December of 2018. When I was doing nursing school, I started working on the surgical trauma ICU as a unit coordinator. And then after I graduated, I did a nurse externship, and then I did my NCLEX and started working on the STICU as an RN. I honestly don’t know why I chose nursing. I was originally a special education major.

Kate Kolb:

Really?

Anna Jacobs:

Yeah.

Kate Kolb:

Okay.

Anna Jacobs:

And then I found myself enjoying more, so like the patho and the medical aspects that come with different disease processes like that. So then I picked up, left college, moved home, and I went to Centra.

Kate Kolb:

Wow. That’s amazing. So explain for people that might not understand what the STICU is.

Anna Jacobs:

Oh yeah.

Kate Kolb:

If you could just break that down.

Anna Jacobs:

That is the surgical trauma ICU. We get the surgical patients, so perforated bellies, or vascular surgeries that stay sometimes for a night, sometimes for a little bit longer, and then obviously traumatic things that happen. Around here, it’s a lot of people falling from tree stands, or car accidents, the occasional gunshot, stabbing, stuff like that. I really liked working there, just because it’s never the same. You never have the same patient population, and so many different things come in.

Kate Kolb:

Wow. Yeah.

Anna Jacobs:

So that’s why I like it.

Kate Kolb:

So it’s kind of intense on a regular basis. One of the reasons that we wanted to invite you to the podcast today was because we had seen this post that you had made on Facebook, about a month ago maybe?

Anna Jacobs:

Yeah.

Kate Kolb:

And it was just so heart warming and wrenching, at the same time you were just really giving a very candid view of what things look like after a shift on that unit for the night. And I was like, “We have to talk to her, we have to talk to her.” It’s intense and you just sort of poured out your feelings about what it was like to work on that unit. And so let’s talk a little bit about … Because you said you work on the STICU, but that hasn’t always been a COVID unit. Is that right?

Anna Jacobs:

No.

Kate Kolb:

So how did that happen?

Anna Jacobs:

So when COVID first started, you heard about it. It was happening elsewhere. It hadn’t really hit Lynchburg. We kind of got hit later than other cities, other towns. And originally, we put the COVID ICU, which is what we call it, there’s two. There’s one COVID ICU and then the regular med-surg COVID floor. And we put the COVID ICU on our backup ICU I guess, the admissions unit. It’s a six bed ICU, so we really weren’t knowing how many patients we were going to get. We had no idea what to expect. And when it first started, they were like, “Well, we’re just going to have a core group of nurses that are going to work it, volunteer,” that kind of thing. My manager actually posted on our Facebook group for my unit and asked who would be interested. And I was like, “I’m 24, I have no comorbidities, I’m fine with that.”

Anna Jacobs:

So I volunteered, and then I started working on the admissions unit, which was the COVID ICU. I think it was the second day that it was open, and so that was interesting. I was thinking, I really wanted to work with more so of a MICU, the medical ICU. They get more of the respiratory distress, respiratory failure stuff. And I had already set up with their manager that I wanted to start picking up over there to learn more about that patient population. And so it kind of came at a good time for me, because I wanted to get more experienced in that area, but I was not expecting everything that happened and how much everything ended up changing. I think we were only on the admissions unit for less than a week before we needed more beds. And then it’s changed back and forth from MICU to STICU, back to MICU, then it was both MICU and STICU. It just been a lot.

Kate Kolb:

Yeah. That seems to be the whole nature of every testimony of all of this that we keep hearing over and over again. It’s just everything changes. There’s nothing standard. You have to be super flexible to just kind of go with the flow and make sure that you’re staying with whatever’s needed. But, talk a little bit about … So you volunteered for the position to be a part of that team. What were your expectations going into it? What did you think it was going to be like?

Anna Jacobs:

Honestly, I have no idea. It was just something new, and it’s nurses. Everyone stays pregnant. I feel people just become nurses and have babies. So back then, when you were pregnant, you couldn’t work it, and anyone who is older shouldn’t work it, any comorbidities, any medications that you took. I honestly don’t know what I was thinking. I was thinking, oh, it’ll be a month tops, a couple months, absolutely tops. And then I’ll be back on STICU, which I was back on STICU, but it was COVID again. Honestly I was expecting to get some good experience with proned patients. Those are the people we flip on their bellies to help them breathe better and just ARDS in general. But I was not expecting kind of, not a war zone, like how it was in New York or Baltimore, but it was scary at some points.

Anna Jacobs:

We didn’t have any beds. There was times where we were like, “Who’s going to open up this unit next and what’s going to be COVID next, where are we going to put people?” But after the first, probably month we kind of got better just because the tests weren’t taking as long. So in the beginning, the tests were taking over a week. So someone who was suspected was in COVID ICU, maybe they just have regular ARDS, they didn’t have COVID, but we didn’t know that until their tests came back. So we had to err on the side of caution, put them in the COVID ICU, but then that was taking up a bed for a whole week.

Kate Kolb:

Yeah. That’s all the pieces of this that I don’t think we have generally thought of as the general populace is, like you said, you didn’t know which units were going to have to be turned into a COVID support unit and what do you do when the test results are running so long and there’s all these wait times for everything. So, that is the one thing that I will say is Centra’s response to everything, obviously nobody saw this coming. Nobody saw what it was going to look like. There still is no really any future prediction for what the outcome is going to look like. But the responses have been as quick as they can be given the nature of everything.

Kate Kolb:

And you guys, as a nursing staff and a provider staff have been amazing to respond to all of the flexibility that has been required of you. So, that’s just been very inspiring to watch during this too. So, when you were working the COVID unit and then when the STICU got kind of moved into being a support unit for that as well, what was it like going to work on a daily basis? You work night shift, right?

Anna Jacobs:

Yeah, night shift.

Kate Kolb:

Okay. So, that was a little bit different maybe. What did that look like for you?

Anna Jacobs:

So it was a whole lot different. It was basically for however many months it was, you really don’t see anybody, you become the whole everything. You are phlebotomy, you are environmental and you are central supply. You’re doing everything because it makes sense to just limit the amount of people who are coming in and out of the unit. We don’t need somebody from lab to be coming in every day and then also having to go STIC other people in the hospital and possibly be exposed on COVID ICU and then going and exposing however other many people. So, we got into the swing of things. It took us a while, but we got there and started working together really, really well. I mean, you have to rely on everybody else on that floor. Sometimes we would have something that’s called a runner and that person would be in charge of literally just standing out in the nurses station and listening for people, knocking on the door, being like, I forgot a syringe or I forgot a needle, random stuff like that.

Anna Jacobs:

So they were a great support. But sometimes if we didn’t have that, it’s taking everything off, coming all the way out through and washing everything down and then going back, getting your thing then going back in, putting everything on. It just things took so much longer and the care that they require is a lot … It’s very intense, drips, prone to people you have to turn their heads every two hours so they don’t get pressure injuries. And that requires at least three people. So you have to really rely on your time management and making sure that everyone is on the same page on when you’re going to turn people. You just come in and you get your mask and you sign out your mask because they all have to be returned and get sterilized and then returned back.

Anna Jacobs:

So you got your mask, you got report. Report normally goes quickly for a COVID patient because for the most part know that patient because the patients in the ICU especially are staying for so long. It’s not a short term illness, it’s something that just kind of drags on and on and on. And so everybody knows all the patients on the unit. You just get to know everybody, like I said, in the post, they really do become your family and you become so close with them and their family. So you do your report and then your first assessment, and then you just go on with your night and who knows what could happen, you could get an admission that was down on the med surg floor and requiring little to no oxygen, and then five minutes later, they’re on a hundred percent face mask and have to be intubated and it just turns into such a super long huge process. And you can never really tell when that’s going to happen or if it’s going to happen.

Kate Kolb:

Yeah. You have to be ready to respond at any moment for anything for sure. Back up just a little bit, because you were talking about having to … If you forgot something in the room or you needed to grab something extra to treat a patient with, you had to don and undon and what that looks like in terms of … What were you wearing in terms of all the equipment and PPE?

Anna Jacobs:

In the beginning we were wearing PAPRs because at that time that was a huge N95 shortage. And there wasn’t any in the hospital at the time. So, that was the first two days of COVID. And then we were wearing these PAPRs. They were huge head masks with a fan built in and they give you your own air supply, but you look like an astronaut and you can’t hear anything. So, everyone’s talking through muffled masks. And you’re really trying to hear over the fan, it was just a mess. But then we got in N95’s, everything got way better. So, that’s just a tight mask that goes over your face and it seals really well. You can’t get particles in, you can’t get particles out and so you wear that. You wear a bouffant for your hair because you got to protect that and you can’t be going home with COVID on your hair.

Anna Jacobs:

And then you put on your surgical mask on top of your N95 to protect you N95. And then you have to wear either … We were wearing face shields. I think face shields are a lot safer than goggles just because you’re fully covered. So we wear face shields and then you have to wear your gown, your shoe covers, gloves, obviously. And then we also before the shift would change out of our normal clothes or normal scrubs into hospital scrubs. And so that way, whenever you left the unit, you went to a designated changing area, would change out of your dirty scrubs and then change into clean ones.

Kate Kolb:

So it’s no small process to go through?

Anna Jacobs:

No, it takes so long, and especially if you’re feeling really stressed out, your patient’s not doing well and you’re trying to get in there so quickly, you find out how quickly you can don and undon. You know when something is going down when someone’s running across the unit with a mask outside of their room really quick throwing a gown on, but you get good at it. We got these newer masks. I can’t remember how long into it it was, but they were reusable, really nice N95’s and they sealed so good to your face. I really actually started using that instead of the regular N95, but they worked really, really well. The thing was they were so tight, everything has to be tight. So the pressure injuries were real. But-

Kate Kolb:

I was going to say, did you end up with any of the bruising around your face?

Anna Jacobs:

Yeah. I had a pressure injury on my wedding day-

Kate Kolb:

Oh no.

Anna Jacobs:

… On my nose but it was fine. Makeup covered it, all was well.

Kate Kolb:

Makeup covers a multitude of things for sure.

Anna Jacobs:

We all know that “maskne” is real. Everybody has it. The “maskne”, that’s like the perfect name for it.

Kate Kolb:

That’s hilarious, all the breakouts that come from everything.

Anna Jacobs:

Yeah, exactly.

Kate Kolb:

Well, yeah, again, another piece of this that we as the general populace, there’s a lot of people that are talking about, do I wear a mask, do I not wear a mask? I don’t even like to wear a mask going into the store for a short amount of time, but you guys, you’re wearing that equipment for hours and hours on end. And that’s a huge sacrifice to be able to do that and to be able to provide care to those patients while still doing that. And that’s what I tell myself every time I do have to put a mask on for anything, I’m like, “Look, if they can do that for a whole shift, I can do it for a short amount of time.” So, I mean, I know it sounds silly to say thank you for something like that, but thank you for being willing to do something so specific like that while you’re taking care of everybody.

Kate Kolb:

So, let’s talk a little bit about what prompted you to write that post that night. I’m sure stressors are high and it was kind of crazy and that sort of thing, but how were you feeling affected at that point in time?

Anna Jacobs:

So, I was not well. I’m just kidding. I was doing okay. Like I said earlier, they’re there for so long and you are the main point of contact between that person, their family. Most of the time, the patient can’t talk to them, they’re intubated or sedated or paralyzed or all of the above, so you get to know their family really, really well. It’s kind of heartbreaking because you stand in there and you hold the unit phone up to the patient’s ear and you hear their private conversations that maybe you don’t want to hear. It just makes you so much more sad for that family. And it was a really, really hard week COVID wise, lost wise, patient wise, just everything.

Anna Jacobs:

So, I was in the car and this super sad song came on, and I actually had played it and sang it to a patient that was actively dying on COVID, probably a month before. And so that came on and then I just got to thinking about it all and the night was really stressful and so much happened. And it just felt you just couldn’t deliver what you needed to, but there’s no way to do that, it’s impossible to get everything done versus normal STICU. You have your set list of tasks that get done before the day shift comes and then you’re ready, but you never want to leave another nurse with a mess. That’s the one thing that any nurse will tell you, we don’t do that. You’re just setting someone else up for failure because they have just the same amount of things to do.

Anna Jacobs:

So, it was more so just disappointment in myself and just complete heartbreak over everything and everyone that had passed and everything that and then to top it all off I remember the very beginning of the night, a patient’s family member called and I was like, “Oh my gosh, yeah, I can see in the room, it looks like the patient’s doing fine, I’ll tell the nurse, she’s in another room right now, I’ll tell her that you called and I’ll have her call you back, give me your number.” I wrote it down on a sticky note. And I remember putting the sticky note in front of me to be like, “Okay, next time you walk by here you need to get the same nurse.” And then I completely forgot. And it was hours later that I remembered. And at that point it’s like, “Do we call the family to give them an update, it’s almost two o’clock in the morning. They’re going to think it’s like an emergency.”

Anna Jacobs:

So, it’s just always weighing benefits and doubting yourself and forgetting little things like that. Maybe it’s little, but that’s so big to a family member to be able to get an update from somebody who’s caring for their loved one that they can’t even see or talk to and they probably haven’t talked to them in weeks. So, it was just a mixture of things. I walked in the door and my husband was like, “Oh my God.” But I recovered, I was fine. I actually wrote that post out of just frustration and just sadness, I think. And then I went to sleep and I just went to bed. I work night shift and then I woke up, all of these people are texting me and I have all these notifications. I was like, “Oh my gosh, what did I do?”

Kate Kolb:

You went viral overnight. Yeah.

Anna Jacobs:

Over the day, I was just like, “Oh my gosh.” If I had been awake I probably would have made it private or deleted it. I don’t know. But I was not expecting what happened to happen. So here we are.

Kate Kolb:

Here we are. That’s what brought us here today. But, I think that that was an important thing, it may have been one of those moments where you sort of just felt you were just getting your feelings out.

Anna Jacobs:

Word vomit.

Kate Kolb:

Word vomit, yeah. I say that all the time but I never know whether everybody else says it too, but yeah. The word vomit of putting it out on social media and I feel I’ve done that before in different stages of my life, with different things and stressors that were going on, but I think it was a very important post for people to read and see the realness of what’s going on in these units and what’s going on with having to interact with these patients. To be honest, I think there was a little bit of a feeling and maybe there still is in some aspects of, well, COVID it’s not that bad, it’s not that big of a deal, why are we freaking out about it? Why is it changing the way that we live?

Kate Kolb:

And for you guys that we’re having to deal with it day in and day out or night in and night out in your case, it is a big deal. And it’s a big deal to the people who have contracted it and are fighting it. And it’s not a respecter of persons. You guys had all kinds of patients in the unit. I mean, I think initially people were like, “Oh, it’s just older people that are being affected.” But, I mean, without giving any specific information, kind of what were the ranges of your patients?

Anna Jacobs:

I’m going to say from the very critical standpoint, the critically ill patients, I think the youngest that was really, really bad, he was in his ’40s or in their ’40s. And then the oldest who I’m pretty sure recovered, actually I’m 90% sure recovered, she was in her ’90s. So, it is a really wide range. What they say is true though and when it hits older people much harder than it does younger. But the issue is that the younger people, maybe they’re not feeling so bad, but if you have it or you think you have it where you think you were in contact, just do the smart thing and stay away from other people because the way I look at it is, if you look at some of these patients and you see them and they’re 50, 60, 70, even 40, that age group is the ones that are dying.

Anna Jacobs:

They’re dying from it regularly all the time. So where did they contract it? They contracted it from their community, from their family who kids our age, I’m 24, people my age and my age group is going around, exposing themselves, maybe not on purpose. And maybe they don’t think about it, but you do need to think any time that you go out and you’re not wearing a mask at Sheetz or wearing a mask at Walmart, whatever, you have the chance to be getting out and just think about someone who’s 70 that you love. Could you imagine them being this sick in the hospital on a ventilator, literally their body’s paralyzed so that their lungs can open up more on the ventilator, turned over on their belly and their face gets swollen, bruised, just picture your loved one like that before you make a decision to not wear a mask for five minutes.

Anna Jacobs:

And I really didn’t want this to turn into like, “Oh my gosh, wear a mask,” and it’s like, whatever, this podcast, isn’t going to make you wear a mask whatever. I see both sides. I see that it’s stinks being controlled to wear a mask and whatever. Maskini stinks, I agree it does. But if you’re not going to wear it, just be safe, be smart, wash your hands, don’t go see your parents, don’t go see your grandparents. Just be safe. It’s literally the only way that we can slow the spread down. We have done a really good job as a community, slowing it down when it became community based. That’s when we were … Not in trouble, but we were worried because there’s only so many nurses and there’s only beds.

Kate Kolb:

Yeah. And that’s a really good point because I think when this first started, when the first wave hit our area, most of the cases that we were seeing were because people had traveled out of the area and we’re bringing it back with them, but then it started, like you said, to morph into, oh my gosh, these people haven’t been anywhere. This is happening here in our community. And what does that look like to protect each other? Great points. I appreciate you bringing that up for sure. So, the emotionality and even the mental heaviness of having to deal with working on that unit with those types of patients, how did you do when you would come home from that? Did you feel home was a reprieve? Explain a little bit about how you processed coming off the unit?

Anna Jacobs:

So, the first couple months I think I did well, I really tried not to let everything affect me. I was ready to go back at night, ready to just do what I could, work as much as I could, do all that kind of stuff, because the hospitals weren’t expecting this. This is something that if you were expecting, you would make sure, you were overstaffed, because you need more staff than normal to do this. A lot of it has been, who can up, can anybody work? And a lot of us are like, “Yeah, we got this, we can totally do this.” And then after a couple of months it just got … I guess it’s burnout. I’ve never been burnt out as a nurse, but I think physically, emotionally, mentally I was burned out.

Anna Jacobs:

And I think that kind of helped lead to that little breakdown that I had and I had multiple breakdowns, I’m not going to lie. But I’m pretty sure most of the time when I would come home, I would just scare my husband a little bit. He’d be like, “What’s wrong with you?” But I would scare him a little bit, kind of sit down and pet my dog, do what I had to do. I’m in school too. So I just do homework, that does help take my mind off of it. Just doing another task, stay busy. I don’t know if the fact that we got married and bought a house all within the same month.

Kate Kolb:

You haven’t had anything on your plate at all.

Anna Jacobs:

Exactly, maybe that’s why I was like, we need this and we need to do that, and we need to do all of these things. Maybe that’s why I like to distract myself. The one thing though that really truly did help was my coworkers and the people who work on MICU, so we’re neighbors and we’ve all been working COVID since the beginning of time. And sometimes we would just come to somebody’s house in the morning and just sit and talk and just vent what we needed to vent. We are still such a good support for each other throughout all of this. And I would trust the MICU staff and the STICU staff with my own life. They’re amazing people.

Anna Jacobs:

And some of them are even new graduates. We have new staff members who … One of my friends just moved here and was like, “I’m going to work on this STICU,” and then she walked in our first day, we were COVID and she’s like, “You just got to roll with it.” That’s literally the epitome of COVID is just roll with it, do what the doctors say. Just roll with it.

Kate Kolb:

Yeah. Well, and that’s great to hear too, that you felt there was that familial support that was happening among the units, and I think sometimes from the outside perspective, we don’t necessarily think about the ins and outs and everything, and it’s kind of, oh, well, these people, this is their job, this is what they do. And yes, it is your job and it is what you do, but you still have feelings and you still have needs to process while you’re working. And so I love that you said that your coworkers were a huge part of that.

Anna Jacobs:

All of us just kind of supported each other through it, because there’s certain people, we try to keep each other’s assignments the same, so you know your patient really well. And that actually helps for you to see, “I think they’re going downhill or we should try this,” because you them. And so we try to keep the same assignments. And so that lets everybody is everybody’s patient. All the patients are all of our patients, but you get your one person and that’s your person, that’s your patient that you know so good. And if we lose one of them, you know which nurse is going to hit the hardest, you know who’s closest to what patients and we’ve gotten a few celebratory, oh my gosh, can’t believe that that patient survived and made it through this.

Anna Jacobs:

And those are the best days, but those are few and far between I guess. But that’s the thing is you just really need to lean on your coworkers and they’re your family. I see them more than I see my own husband. So those girls and the boys are family to me. And they’re all amazing people. And they all do such great work. And I feel from my MICU people who are still in COVID land. We love you, even though we never see you.

Kate Kolb:

Yeah. Well, let’s talk about that then. So, we just recently, well, semi recently transferred the STICU back to its normal capacity. And so you are no longer slated as a COVID unit right now. How has that been transitioning from COVID world back into your normal unit status?

Anna Jacobs:

It was so weird. I’m wearing real scrubs, my own scrubs. They fit me, because the scrubs that we got are the operating room scrubs so there-

Kate Kolb:

So they’re all oversized.

Anna Jacobs:

So that was weird doing laundry again because all I ever wear is scrubs, I have to wash them now, what the heck? And then just getting back into the swing of things. It was so weird all of us, the first couple of weeks were honestly a mess. Trying to stay on task and keep everything up to where we needed it to be. It was so hard because none of us were used to it anymore. We saw doctors that we hadn’t seen in months. And it was so fun, they’re surgeons, because we’re not seeing them in COVID, they really limit who comes into the COVID unit, it’s very limited and all the units are locked down so a lot of the general surgeons and the vascular surgeons, they came up to the unit, which normally at night shift, they don’t do that. But they would come up to see us and say hi. And it was-

Kate Kolb:

Was it a reunion? Did you feel [crosstalk 00:29:11] like family?

Anna Jacobs:

Yeah, we were all saying, “Oh my gosh, I just can’t wait to have a vascular patient again and get to call the doctor because they have low urine output at three o’clock in the morning.”

Kate Kolb:

You never thought that that phrase would come out of your mouth, right?

Anna Jacobs:

Yeah exactly. We were so excited. And it was really good to reunite with them and see that people from lab and the phlebotomist, just the random people that you don’t even realize how much you would miss. Our environmental lady, Delores, I love you girl, it was so nice to see everybody. And we’re back in the swing of things now. I think we’re not really doing a lot of the voluntary surgeries, non-emergent surgeries. Still, we’re trying to keep census low, but census is still high in the whole hospital. It’s just that time of year. And then we’ll see what the winter brings.

Anna Jacobs:

It’s so up in the air, nobody knows so it’s really hard. But I think that the hospital has definitely done a great job at preparing for worst case scenario and then letting us live our lives in best case scenario and switching the units around and the staff around is I think really important because the burnout is real and it happens very quickly, and I feel for the people who are still there and I know that they had a little bit of a break, but their break was shorter than ours. So hopefully soon we’ll be able to just make it maybe volunteer, I don’t know.

Kate Kolb:

Yeah. I love that you brought that up about the fact that leadership is trying to take into account. “Okay. These people have been doing this for quite some time, who else can we rotate in?” I think that says a lot to them trying to really protect the mental health of all of you while you’re working. Is that something that you felt … Was there a fog that you felt you had to come out of when you were working COVID and transitioning back to the normal?

Anna Jacobs:

Yeah, there definitely was. And then, so recently, the evidence that’s come out again, like you said, everything changes its day by day. The Virginia board of nursing and the health department will send us emails about, “Oh, this is new evidence that we’re seeing.” And then the physicians will decide whether or not to act on that and change things that we’re doing in the hospital with COVID patients. But within the last couple of weeks, there was evidence that came out that after 20 days of someone being tested positive, the viral load that you have is too low to infect somebody else. It’s impossible. So that was really great because that’s opening up-

Kate Kolb:

It’s encouraging.

Anna Jacobs:

Yeah. So that’s families getting to see their loved one for the first time in probably over 20 days. And it’s so nice. So they get to move out of the ICU or the COVID unit and then come to … Two of them came to my floor. And so it was people that we had taken care of for almost a month and then they come back to us. And so that was kind of keeping us in a fog a little bit, but again, it was so nice to get to see them and see them be reunited with their families and it was just amazing.

Anna Jacobs:

And now that we’re letting families back in, we’re so happy, I don’t think people realize how much that nursing really relies on family visitors to be there. And they see things that we don’t, we don’t know these people there, they’re not someone that we’re related to. We don’t see them every day. So we’ve missed family so much and it’s so nice that they can come back now and see their loved ones and make us all cry because it’s just so happy to see them together again, visit time isn’t the same, it’s nice for the time being, but it’s not the same and it won’t be, it’s not.

Kate Kolb:

Yeah, well, and that’s a big piece of what we’ve talked about in some other areas, as we’ve been kind of working through these communications with COVID, it’s just that overall feeling of isolation that happens. And so it’s not just the patients feeling isolated in their treatment and that sort of things, or the families feeling isolated and not being able to reach out or interact. But you all, as a care team are very isolated in that respect.

Anna Jacobs:

Mm-hmm (affirmative). We definitely on COVID you don’t see anyone. I would text my coworkers when they weren’t working, I would be like, “Can you guys go to the vending machine and just get me a Coke?” They would come in and drop it off at the door and then scurry away before we came out. But it’s not just isolating within the hospital, but outside, when everything first started, for sure. You don’t know, I didn’t know whether or not my mask was keeping me safe or who knew. So now that more evidence has come on. I definitely feel more comfortable being around people, but I didn’t see my parents or my sister or my husband’s parents for months.

Kate Kolb:

Did you feel the stigma of even just in the community, people that may or may not have known that you were a nurse? Did you feel you could wear your scrubs somewhere? I mean, clearly not the ones you were wearing on the unit, if you were ever just in your regular work scrubs anywhere.

Anna Jacobs:

I never really came across a situation where I felt I couldn’t, I think a couple of times within the past few weeks I’ve been wearing my scrubs getting a red bull to come home or something with. And the guy at Sheetz the other day told me thank you. And it was so sweet, I was, no, thank you, here you are, and you have this little plastic barrier between us. I feel you, but it’s just isolation from places outside of the hospital was honestly really hard for me because I’m a very social person and I did not do well. But that’s everybody, it’s not just me. It’s everybody in the world. It’s every nurse on COVID. I know there was some nurses who literally didn’t see their grandparents at all, or didn’t see their parents at all.

Anna Jacobs:

And so that’s really hard. That’s really, really hard for them. My parents live out of town, so it wasn’t a huge difference for me, but people who lived with their parents or they traveled. And so their weekends where they would normally go home to see their parents they didn’t, because when you see these patients, you don’t want that to happen to anyone that you know, or anyone that you love. And so you kind of isolate yourself on top of being isolated. So it’s just a double whammy. It’s rough, it’s emotionally really, really rough.

Kate Kolb:

Yeah. Well, thank you again so much for everything that you did while you were on the unit, the things that you continue to do in your normal unit structure and you guys are every bit of our heroes. And I know that, I think at the beginning of this, there was a lot of applause and celebration for the healthcare industry as a whole. And I feel there’s a little bit as it’s gone on, people sort of have forgotten the fact that this is still happening and these people are still doing their jobs day in and day out. And so thank you, thank you so much for what you do every single night when you go into work and you and your coworkers and just the sacrifices that you’re making every single shift.

Anna Jacobs:

I do think that there’s just one last little tidbit information from me. I think regardless of what side you’re on, pro mask, anti mask, whatever or the political side, the nursing staff and the healthcare workers, the physicians, the respiratory therapists, the phlebotomist, environmental, everybody within the health care organization at Centra has been directly impacted by this virus. And we don’t really get the time or the chance to even form an opinion on everything. We see it, we know it’s happening, we know it’s real. And just now it’s real, it’s a real virus. People are dying, people are recovering, yes. But more people are dying and are recovering for it. And I just wish that, just ignore the political stuff for a minute and just go thanks somebody who’s a health care worker. It doesn’t matter if they’re a nurse, a doctor, respiratory, whatever, anybody, all of our lives are significantly changed and will probably never be the same after this. So, that was just what I wanted to say.

Kate Kolb:

Yeah, no, I appreciate that a lot. I think that, that carries a lot of weight coming from somebody who’s directly on the front lines of everything. And it affects all of us in the community. Like you said, everybody’s lives are changed, but your lives in particular. You’ve had to roll with so many punches with everything the whole time. So thank you truly for-

Anna Jacobs:

Yeah, no problem.

Kate Kolb:

… Not only what you do every day, but also for being willing to talk to me today, and I appreciate that very much. So it’s been a pleasure to hear your experiences and just hear your heart behind what you do and why you do it. And all the great words that you’ve said about the care teams at Centra and working together as a team. So thank you, I appreciate it.

Anna Jacobs:

The best team.

Kate Kolb:

Yes, awesome. Well, thank you guys again for listening today. This has been Centra scripts and we’ve been here with Anna Jacob’s one of our nurses at Centra, and there will be more information on this in our other COVID topics that you find at centrascripts.com. So feel free to check that out and stay tuned for our next episode.

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