Two Drexel Nurses On Nursing During the COVID-19 Pandemic
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to spread around the globe, healthcare workers have become our first line of defense against the virus. We reached out to Drexel University nursing students and alumni to learn more about how the pandemic is affecting their hospitals and their lives. Here, Ashley Aloba, a 2015 graduate of Drexel’s BSN program and now a student in the MSN in Nursing Leadership in Health Systems Management, and Alexandra Maye, a student in the MSN in Nursing Leadership in Health Systems Management, gave us some insight on how their work and lives have changed since the outbreak of COVID-19.
What's changed for you since the pandemic started? Is your routine different?
AA: I wouldn't say my personal routine is different. The hospital routine is different; we have only certain entrances to walk through, we now get mandatory hand sanitizer "squirts" at the front and must get our temperature checked prior to walking into the building. Anything over 100.0 must be sent to Occupational Health for further testing. Because of this, maybe I have to leave for work a little earlier.
AM: I’m definitely more aware of my surroundings and what I touch. Now, more so than ever, it’s imperative that we’re careful to not only not get sick ourselves, but to not get other patients sick within the hospital. So, more cleanness and being aware of what I’m bringing home, because I have immunocompromised family members. On top of that, my unit got dissolved, because I’m a more specialty unit. So, I went back to one of my older units that I worked on, an observation unit/emergency room. So now my routine has changed from what I was doing before to being deployed to units that need our help more. So, it’s been a change.
How has your hospital been affected?
AA: As mentioned above, the hospital has gotten stricter with monitoring employee health prior to starting your shift. We also are down to a skeleton staff where most services are working from home (i.e. case management, social work, etc.).
AM: There’s been an influx of patients, for sure. I would say most of our patients are COVID, so we want to get those patients who aren’t COVID-positive out of the hospital as soon as possible. So, we definitely have a different patient population, but more so I’ve honestly seen more hands on deck and more unity between everyone.
How is this pandemic changing (or confirming) your perception of the importance of nurses?
AA: I think you always knew that nurses were essential, but never in my lifetime or even my mother's lifetime (who is also a nurse) would we have expected us to be so vital during such dire times. This pandemic is scary and it honestly makes you evaluate how much you love being a nurse. During this pandemic, you are faced with taking care of patients and potentially having to isolate yourself from your family. It’s a really tough decision to make.
AM: It’s changed perceptions from the nurse being seen by the media as “the helper” to being the person on the front line, advocating and fighting and being with the patients every day, collaborating with the doctors and physical therapists. The whole teamwork thing has changed, and I think people see the more imperative role that nurses play. Before, my friends would never text me and say, “Thank you for all that you’ve been doing.” But now they’re like, “Thank you for everything.” What we do is selfless. I didn’t get into this career for the recognition, but it’s nice to see people appreciate us in a different way. They see how critical we are to healthcare as a whole.
Are you worried about being in more danger of contracting the virus?
AA: I worry about this every single shift I work. It is really a scary thing to be faced with. While the risk of dying at my age and state of health is low, the fact that I could potentially expose someone I love to a life-threatening disease is very scary.
AM: For sure. I hope this brings to light that we need to be more prepared in the future. We need to be 20 steps ahead so if this situation was to happen again, we would have our resources. The whole nation is critically low on supplies, and that tells us that something is wrong in what we’re doing, and that we need to be more prepared to protect everyone that is on the front line. That’s not just the nurses, it’s the doctors, the techs, the cleaning people. You wouldn’t expect a firefighter to go to a burning building and say, “Good luck, you can do it,” without a mask or any type of protective gear. So why is that happening now with all the healthcare professionals across the country?
I’d like the country to focus more on protecting the nurses instead of trying to paint us as the front line and the heroes. We weren’t placed in this profession to get sick ourselves and be this sacrificial lamb. We should be protected, so we can help and care for others. When people are in the army, they aren’t fighting for our country with nothing. So, I hope that stigma of, “Wow, they’re a nurse, they can handle it,” goes away. We care, and it’s a great profession, but there should be some protection.
How has this affected your home life?
AA: I honestly take all my work clothes off before coming into the house. I wash my hands a million times a day. I don't go to the grocery as much as I used to because with a small child at home, I want to limit how much I expose him to any germs. When I am off from work, I am pretty much home, more so out of fear than anything, but it is also nice spending time with my husband and son.
AM: I live with immunocompromised people. I never wore my stuff in the house, but more so now I use the Lysol sprays to spray everything down. I need to make sure I’m not a vector bringing things in. I’ve also tried to establish a better routine. I’m cutting off my connection to the internet. Seeing it all the time, COVID this and COVID that…it’s information overload. I’m trying to maintain my own mental and physical health to ensure that I’m the best person I can be for my patients.