Lori Novik is a Registered Nurse who works at both the Regina General Hospital and the Pasqua Hospital in Regina.
Many of us hoped this pandemic would have a shelf life of a year or less. No one could have predicted the current surge of cases along with a rise in variant strains. Despite this, health-care workers continue to go to work and do their very best. In early 2020, we waited for the hospitals to fill with COVID-19 cases; thankfully it didn’t happen.
We were fortunate in Saskatchewan to have the luxury of time to prepare to increase ICU capacity, procure extra equipment and get testing facilities operational; none of which is a small feat. We all waited for what was yet to come.
In 23 years as a critical care nurse, I have never experienced such a sustained level of stress and anxiety. My initial fear of contracting COVID-19 is now non- existent as I received a vaccination during Regina’s pilot project in December. I am incredibly grateful for my invisible shield of protection.
That initial fear has been replaced with thoughts of “how are we going to do this?” and “for how long?” as Regina becomes a variant hotspot with increased hospitalizations.
During a recent shift, five code blues were called overhead, with each one representing an individual in medical distress. That shift prompted me to write a Facebook post outlining the dire situation in our hospitals in hopes of encouraging people to stay diligent and follow public health measures.
The most disheartening part of being a health-care worker for me personally is when I leave the hospital environment. It is difficult to drive past unmasked, dancing, sign-holders who continue to dispute the very existence of a virus that we are working so hard to keep at bay.
My emotional response lands somewhere between sorrow, anger and a gut-punch.
Our reality is putting yet another intubated, ventilated and sedated patient into ICU while these folks have a street party denying our struggle.
I’ve stopped reading comments attached to social media posts from news outlets. It is too damaging to read the ongoing debate and misinformation that these articles breed; to see how people downplay a virus that we know can be fatal.
I know this is a minority of people in our province, but it still has an impact. The public needs to recognize the current state of our hospitals;
that health care has limits.
In my career, I have never seen a single virus fill the majority of ICU beds.
This is a different monster than Influenza.
Patients require weeks of supportive ventilation, creating a traffic jam in terms of patient flow. There are very few beds left for traumas, life-saving surgeries and other crises where patients require ICU care.
It is not as simple as “making” more beds.
I have started a COVID-19 journal where I have written down my thoughts and fears in an attempt to release them into the universe and out of my constantly whirring, non-sleeping anxious brain.
Few people can understand the emotional toll this past year has taken on health-care workers.
My co-workers continue to be makeshift therapists, watching over one another. They know only too well the challenges we are facing and I applaud their ability to come back and do it again, shift after shift.
I am optimistic that the continued roll out of vaccine is our way out of this.
Stay safe, keep educating others and hold one another up…we need it more than ever!