Local Frontline Nurses Share Challenges of COVID-19 Patient Care
Hannah Bond, RN, has learned from 18 months experience to look for the positives as she continues to care for seriously ill COVID-19 patients.
“I had experienced death and sickness before COVID-19, but nothing prepared me for the helplessness I would feel while caring for these patients,” Bond said. “I’ve held more hands and said more prayers as my patients took their last breaths than I care to remember. But even though we see so much stress and negative aspects of COVID-19, we do still see some good.”
The COVID-19 pandemic has proven challenging to Bond and her colleagues in nursing.
Heather Mangano, RN, had graduated and just started her nursing career in June of 2019. The global pandemic changed everything. In October of 2020, her unit became the primary COVID-19 care unit at Springfield Memorial Hospital (formerly, Memorial Medical Center). Many processes and safety protocols she had mastered evolved to updated ones to better protect patients and colleagues from the highly contagious virus.
“Changes seemed to be happening by the hour sometimes,” she remembered of the early weeks of the pandemic. “It was a time of high stress and tension as we worked to provide a high level of care to our patients and help each other navigate through our new reality.”
In August and September, they found themselves in the midst of another surge.
Rachel Daniel, RN, has seen it firsthand. The nurse manager for a general surgery unit that transitioned to a COVID-19 unit last fall remembers her team rejoicing this past spring when numbers came down. The celebration was short-lived.
“The Delta surge caused our beds to fill with the sickest of the sick COVID-19 patients in central Illinois,” she said. “A 22-year-old nurse asked me in August ‘When will it end?’ The only response I could provide her with was ‘I don’t know, but it’s up to our communities now.’”
Both Bond and Mangano and other frontline healthcare workers have taken advantage of free mental health resources offered through Memorial Health. Counseling allows for a safe environment to vent, identify stressors at work and home, and develop coping strategies with a behavioral specialist.
Meanwhile Bond continues to try and stay focused on the positive.
“There is nothing better to me than coming back after a couple of days off to see a patient who I didn’t think was going to pull through going through the planning process for discharge,” she said. “We get attached to our patients so seeing them improve and get better is so important to us! That’s what keeps me coming back.”