COVID Frontline – Focus – Intensive Care

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Beep … Beep … Beep … Beep a constant sharp sound of a patients heart monitor, is the background noise for the nurses in the Intensive Care Unit of Sault Area Hospital. Announcements of the new “protected codes” and extra PPE remind them of how much their lives have changed in the past year because of COVID.

“I think I speak for a lot of the ICU nurses that it’s scary walking into work every day,” said Katie, one of three ICU nurses who spoke with SaultOnline for this story. “We get these patients that come in, we get called down to these protected code blues, we don’t know who has COVID we have to treat everybody like they do have COVID.”

That fear of the unknown was a theme, Robin and Ashleigh, the other two nurses, both said it was the scariest part.

“It’s been pretty stressful over the last year, and then to the patient, having positives and or potential positives come through the door has definitely created a lot of stress for me and my colleagues,” said Ashleigh. “The unknown, we don’t know who’s coming. We don’t know what they have, if they if they have it if they don’t have it.”

Conversations about having clean homes and dirty homes, where they would be away from there families to protect them were commonplace in the ward.

“You know, you kind of buddied up with people that say you come stay at my house and so just so our families were protected if it if it came to that,” said Robin.

They fear having to separate from the families but praise the hospital for taking steps to protect everyone.

“At the beginning of the pandemic, all of our infection control guidelines changed, and they continue to change almost on a daily basis,” said Katie.

What Katie found frustrating was watching people go places, travel all over and do things, while not worrying about the repercussions it could have on the community.

“It’s kind of disrespectful to the health care staff who are sitting here, working day-by-day following these public health guidelines, you know, trying our best to keep the community safe.”

As vaccinations become available, they hope everyone will go out and get it. Each one stressed the importance of following the guidelines, even though tiring, and getting vaccinated. They understand it has been a long road, with that journey comes one last fear.

“It’s been scary, the stress has been unreal. And I’m really worried about what the burnout from this is going to be like in the next couple of years.”

The beeping they hear, every day in the background, doesn’t just mark someone’s heartrate anymore. It is a constant reminder, the front lines of this battle, are right inside the ICU.

You can see their full interviews on Between The Lines, airing tonight on ONNtv at 7 p.m., follow the link from our main page.