I’ve been an Intensive Care Unit (ICU) Registered Nurse for 28 of my 30 years of nursing. It began on a medical/surgical floor, followed by a Surgical ICU, then in a Neurosurgical ICU. After the first case of Covid 19 was diagnosed on January 21, 2020, we knew it was only going to be a matter of time before our unit transitioned to a Covid ICU.
Our hospital had a plan. First the MICU would take Covid patients, the SICU next and then our unit. As intensive care RNs, we take care of the sickest of the sick. This was much different though, and we all worked together to adapt and provide the more specialized care that these patients needed. We spoke with the doctors, nurses, respiratory therapists, and other staff members that had been taking care of Covid patients before we did. They were able to share their experiences and care plans with us; this allowed us to implement the same in our unit. We were uneasy of the road ahead, but with their help were able to secure the proper equipment we would need for each room and how to set them up to best care for the patients, while limiting exposure.
The first time I walked into a patient’s room it really hit me that I was the primary caregiver and no one else could come in. I felt alone, but all I had to do was look out through the glass door and see other members of our team ready to assist with whatever was needed. We used dry erase markers to write on the doors to communicate if we needed something. We gathered any extra things we would need before entering the room. Because elective surgeries had been cancelled, the nurses from the recovery room and OR were there to help us, passing medications to the non-Covid patients and taking specimens to the lab. They also assisted with stocking supply carts that were outside of each room. We learned to use to Zoom to call and video chat with families. Sometimes we had to help them say goodbye, and that was so hard. Giving shift to shift report became even more critical. Much of this was new for us, and it gave us a chance to ask questions about patient care. We also emphasized nurse to nurse care by checking on and supporting each other.
We were a Covid unit for approximately seven weeks, then cases began to go down and we transitioned back to caring for our own specialty patients. We continue wearing masks and protective goggles when we enter any room. We also still gather supplies before staring our rounds, which proved to be a great time saver. Our unit has 18 beds, so we are a close group. We trust each other, value each other’s suggestions, and share our knowledge. This didn’t change with Covid, it only reinforced it. Being a nurse is being a part of a family like no other. It didn’t take a pandemic to teach us that. Happy Nurses Week to every nurse. Be proud of yourselves. I am.