In healthcare, there has always been a little bit of uncertainty before each shift. What will my shift be like? Will I be strong enough to handle the challenges that I face? In the setting of COVID-19, that uncertainty is insurmountable! You don’t know what you will face. You don’t know if it’s truly droplet or airborne. You don’t know if the information that you are being told is correct. You don’t know if your protective equipment is enough to keep you safe or if you even have enough protective equipment. You don’t know how many days you will be asked to reuse your protective equipment and at what point it becomes unsafe. Because it is all new to us, we don’t have many answers, and that is terrifying and makes you feel powerless. Knowledge is indeed power!

At the beginning of COVID-19, it was nothing short of eerie throughout the hospital. Patients weren’t coming to the hospital. Visitors were not allowed. Patients were scared. Healthcare workers were either silent or stressing to a degree of hysteria, or somewhere in between. I walked around and thought about which of us might catch COVID-19 and perhaps not survive. There was a lot of personal discussion among my colleagues about our own wishes. Luckily, we have gotten through by the grace of God; so far it has not been as bad as expected. It’s the little things that people are doing to make a bad situation better... free food, free coffee, handmade masks, headbands with buttons to relieve pressure from your ears, inspirational signs colored and posted in stairwells and on doors, chalk on the sidewalks with kind words, and a simple thank you. The talents that people are sharing makes this world a little better during these times.

It was a relief to see that our efforts had resulted in our first ICU COVID-19 patient’s survival. All that I was hearing on the news is that once these patients got intubated, they were dying. It gave me hope to see that they can survive.

A patient from more than two years ago, who had been in the hospital for a very prolonged course, is now better and sitting at home making handmade masks for the nurses and providers that cared for her. She brought them to the hospital, and I tried to distribute them to the people who knew her. A touching story if you knew her own health struggles and the fact that she spent a year of her life in the hospital.

A personal challenge that I face daily is feeling constantly contaminated. I am caring for known COVID-19 patients then leaving work, contaminating my vehicle, my personal space, taking extra clean measures, staying six feet away from everyone, wearing a mask, dropping things on doorsteps, no goodbye hugs, not entering my family home—my family is safe and content there, and I try to keep them that way; I bring groceries and supplies to their doorstep for them to wipe off before bringing them inside.

I miss having the closeness of my family and friends. I miss feeling clean. I miss the freedom of going when and where I want to. I miss social gatherings, celebrations, restaurants, concerts, hairdressers, stocked grocery shelves, travel, church, school, etc.

Despite all this, I also appreciate the pause button. Projects are getting done that we would not have had time for, many families are spending more time and meals together, parents are learning that it’s really not always the teacher’s fault, people are enjoying nature and walks, the world is a little less busy and chaotic. New chaos has replaced some of the old.

I have learned how precious life can be. Live in the moment. Live day by day. Tomorrow isn’t promised. Enjoy and treasure the good times. Bad times don’t last forever. When you have your health, you have it all. Do the best you can with what you have. Little things can make a big difference. Enjoy the simple things in life. Bring joy to those around you every chance you can.

—Rhonda S. MSN, CCRN, CRNP

©2020 Pennsylvania Patient Safety Authority