Memorial nurse describes working on the front line during the pandemic

Asa Wood, RN, Memorial Hospital of South Bend, describes the anxiety, uncertainty and sleepless nights surrounding the first days of working on the front line during the pandemic. Asa is one of many Beacon nurses who volunteered to care for COVID-19 patients. 

“When I first started nursing school, I never imagined we would be looking at a pandemic face to face in our hometowns. At first it seemed far away and exotic, but the reality of the virus quickly became apparent. Before the virus reached South Bend, our hospital asked for volunteers to staff the new COVID units. I, along with many others, signed up and we soon had our first COVID positive patients. At first, there was much hype and excitement surrounding these new patients. New policies and guidelines were being rolled out seemingly hourly. It was difficult to keep up. Many of us nurses would work several days in a row and sleep at the hospital between shifts. It was a new world, but I felt excited to be a part of it.

“For the first few weeks, our patients arrived scared and shocked that they had contracted the virus. They worried for themselves and the people they love. Even us nurses felt anxious over the first confirmed COVID patients. I obsessively cleaned my equipment and working area. I washed my hands till they cracked and bled. I thought about the possibility of contracting the virus or giving it to my family. Rumors spread that we could run out of PPE and the hospital would be overrun by a surge of sick patients. We had many serious discussions amongst ourselves regarding rationing of ventilators and determining who would receive care and who would die. It was very scary and I had many sleepless nights in those first weeks. However, as we got into our groove, we were able to separate facts from sensationalism. We never ran out of PPE. We never had to ration ventilators. And as of today, I have not gotten sick. The care of our COVID patients has become routine. We are now used to wearing masks, gearing up to enter rooms, and seeing positive COVID tests daily. I view my patients as regular folks with diabetes, hypertension, cardiac disease, and people who also happen to have COVID.

“Some of the biggest changes in my life have occurred outside of work. I have to assume I am carrying the virus. It has been hard staying away from my parents, siblings and their children. I avoid going to the grocery store and try to pass my time on house projects or going for a hike at local parks. My fiancé and I are supposed to have a wedding in June, but we know our plans will likely change. The wedding will be added to the long list of altered plans during this pandemic. I know it will not last forever, but I am looking forward to the day when I can hug my parents again. In the meantime, I will continue in my new COVID nurse role and take things one day at a time.”