Providing Care During the Pandemic
A Perioperative Nurse's Point of View
The pandemic has impacted our personal and professional lives in so many ways. For Carol Lincoln, RN, a perioperative nurse who works in our Post-Anesthesia Care Unit (PACU), or Recovery Room, changes came fast and furious in the early days of COVID-19. And things continue to change as we adapt to the virus and variants like delta. A summer surge of COVID-19 cases, an influx of patients needing care unrelated to the virus and workforce shortages impacting just about every area of the hospital are some of the major challenges facing CVPH as we head into the holiday season.
Carol is part of an entire team at the hospital working around the clock to safely provide care, protecting our patients and each other as best as we can from COVID-19. In an interview, Carol, a mother of three daughters and a son, described what it was like to be a nurse and mother in the early days of the pandemic and how her colleagues inspired her.
Q: What is a typical day like for you?
Carol: I work three 12-hour shifts from 6:00 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Initially, I start out getting the first rounds of our patients ready for the operating room. We do their health history, collect information about their medications, have them sign consents and put in their IV. And then, just get them off to surgery. I also transition the patient to the recovery room or to other areas when needed. I work in the pre-op and post-op areas. Every day is different. Some days are busier than others.
Q: What have you heard from patients, as you’re going through this together in a sense, dealing with precautions because of the virus?
Carol: I think patients have been hesitant to come back to have surgeries. I think they have been a little scared, and especially when we didn’t have visitation, they didn’t like not having their family members with them. We took great care of them and did our best to accommodate them. They were brave, and they trusted us to care for them during some scary times.
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Q: What was it like for you, as a nurse, standing in as the family support person, since there was a significant amount of time when loved ones could not visit because of COVID precautions?
Carol: It was hard because you knew the patient and the family felt very alone and isolated. When I worked in the ICU for a while, I saw nurses who helped the patient FaceTime their last moments with their families. Those ICU nurses spent 12 hours a shift in those rooms, caring for those patients. And I just wanted people in the community to know that their family members in the ICU were not alone in their darkest moments. And that’s something that was very touching and very emotional to witness. They were so caring and dedicated being in those rooms, when you didn’t really know a lot about the virus. But they were in there, treating those patients like they were a family member. They were the patient’s family when families couldn’t be here.
Q: How did that make you feel, going to those great lengths and seeing your colleagues go to those great lengths to connect with those patients?
Carol: I’ll never forget it. For me, as a nurse, I think making a difference is the best thing you can do in someone’s life. That’s why I come back every day, because if I can make a difference in just one person’s life, it may not be every day, but those little moments are amazing to witness and to participate in. I mean, it goes way beyond putting an IV in someone.
Q: Do you have any specific memories that are going to stick with you for a long time?
Carol: Yes, I think it was my first night in the ICU, and I was taking care of a woman who was COVID-positive. And she was at the point where she needed to be put on a ventilator. I was in the room with her when the doctor came in, and she called her brother and had a conversation with him. And again, witnessing those kinds of things, that in an ordinary day, you can’t imagine that happening to anybody, having those last conversations with the people you love. That sticks with me. She ended up doing fine, thankfully and was eventually able to go home. For me, as a nurse, to see what people go through and the strength they have, it touches me.
Q: Is there something or someone that you’re most grateful for since the pandemic began?
Carol: I think my co-workers. It’s definitely been stressful, and we get upset with one another or impatient with how things are being done sometimes. But, we’re all family here, we work through the tough times and we all still come together and do the right thing for the patient. I also think that throughout the hospital, there were so many non-clinical folks who ran around and had to change so much to make sure we could still safely provide care to our patients. All of the rewiring and computer-related stuff they had to change. It was stunning how quickly they were able to get all of that done and move things and totally re-work the spaces we had. That was another very proud moment for me.
One of the biggest challenges Carol said she faced outside of work was not being able to see her mother, a resident in a Plattsburgh nursing home, for more than a year. In April, she was finally able to enjoy a short visit and give her mom a big hug. However, there were some positives for Carol, who admitted it was great spending more time with her family.
To read about more of the great work being done by CVPH employees, including one of Carol’s Operating Room colleagues who was honored with a DAISY Award, visit our blog section.