Jennifer is a frontline RN nurse who lives in Laurel, MD. She is twenty-nine years old.
“My personal thoughts on the current administration’s handling of the pandemic vacillate between anger to despondency. I personally have grown weary of the lack of leadership, lack of trust of the medical professionals trained to address crises of this manner, and politicizing of the pandemic. Yet, my hope is not found in any politician but on God. I am more encouraged by my state’s Governor, Larry Hogan, and by his actions and transparency during this time.”
We are currently living in an unprecedented time where workers, students, and people as a whole are uniquely impacted by COVID-19. How have you been directly impacted?
As a nurse, COVID-19 has had a direct impact on myself and my fellow colleagues. Many staff members have had to get tested after presenting with symptoms or potentially being exposed. Although we are not directly caring for COVID patients, the risk is still present for staff and patients. The majority of our patients are immunosuppressed, therefore, we have taken extra measures to ensure their safety. We have had many of our patients get tested for COVID and moreover, some of the nurses, including myself, have had to accompany our patients to the enhanced isolation units for testing. I have had to decide whether to put my family at risk and continue coming home after every shift or to stay in a hotel until the risk subsides.
In regards to the current administration’s handling of the pandemic, what are your thoughts on their management of COVID-19?
My personal thoughts on the current administration’s handling of the pandemic vacillate between anger to despondency. I personally have grown weary of the lack of leadership, lack of trust of the medical professionals trained to address crises of this manner, and politicizing of the pandemic. Yet, my hope is not found in any politician but on God. I am more encouraged by my state’s Governor, Larry Hogan, and by his actions and transparency during this time. He has stated that he will follow the recommendations of medical professionals on addressing mitigation and containment strategies as well as when to begin easing social distancing restrictions.
Describe for me the work adjustments that your company made during the pandemic? What are some personal work adjustments that you have made?
Every person that enters the hospital building must be screened. We are asked questions such as, in the last 24 hours have you experienced shortness of breath, coughing, sore throat, diarrhea, muscle aches, etc.? With a negative screening, I am handed a surgical mask and given a sticker that proves I have been screened that day. Our hospital has heightened security and has changed the policy for visitors. Within our unit, we have to hide our masks and disinfecting wipes as many of them have gone missing. Personally, I have to remind myself to maintain a safe distance from my colleagues. Additionally, after a shift, I have elected to come through the basement to quickly change out of my scrubs and go directly to the bathroom to bathe myself.
What do you think about the idea of people viewing you as a “hero” for working the frontlines during a pandemic? Would you agree or disagree with that?
Prior to the pandemic, nurses were not commonly viewed as heroes. Doctors often received the attention for their work and while it takes an army to keep a patient safe and cared for, nurses spend roughly 12 hours of their day with the patient. However, many nurses are putting not only themselves at risk but their families during this time. I believe this is a calling and for many of us, we hold to the responsibility and oath we made to protect and care for patients. So while many view us as heroes, that could very well be true but it is not a result of the pandemic, it has always been true that nurses sacrifice a lot of themselves for others.
What do you think this pandemic has revealed about the value we place on other job positions versus the one you have?
I think this pandemic has definitely shown how undervalued teachers, grocery store workers, delivery workers, and restaurant workers are. In addition, I believe it is unfortunate that many businesses that had to close have had to lay off workers or even close their business due to the economic impact of the pandemic. Even though it’s evident that certain positions have been undervalued, it may not change how such companies may pay these ‘essential’ employees or what sorts of benefits are given, such as sick leave.
How do you think your company/public ought to view workers, such as yourself, moving forward?
I believe that my employer should see our value and compensate us accordingly. Additionally, there should be timely training before being thrust into clinical situations that one is unfamiliar. Accurate information and guidelines should also be communicated effectively if we as frontline workers are to address clinical circumstances effectively. I think the public needs to understand that the medical guidelines are put in place to keep everyone safe, not just certain individuals. These healthcare workers are people that have gone through rigorous educational, and professional training understand the ramifications if such guidelines are not followed and should be trusted instead of conspiracy theories.
Explain for me how you view yourself, role, and impact as an essential worker?
As stated previously, I feel I am called to be a nurse. Despite the ups and downs of my job, I am dedicated to taking care of my patients. It is my job. However, I do not view nurses as superior to many of the people risking their lives to maintain some semblance of normalcy.