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COVID WARD ANUM
I was an ANUM on a general medical ward up until recently. Then Covid19 reared its head and I was suddenly an ANUM on a Covid19 ward, where only confirmed or suspected Covid19 patients were admitted. Was I given a choice? No. Why? Because it’s a pandemic. If I was given a choice would I still be working on a Covid19 ward? Well yes, I’m not going to say no. I don’t have any immunity issues, the only thing I suffer from is seasonal asthma.
We are in unprecedented times, never has anything like this been seen in our lifetimes. It’s why I get angry when I see people flouting the lockdown rules, why I get angry when I see people being noncompliant, and thinking that it won’t affect them. It’s not about us. It’s about the people that need protecting – the elderly, the immunosuppressed, the more susceptible and vulnerable people in our society.
It all hit on the weekend, as I held his hand as his eyes glazed over. Patient X was an elderly gentleman admitted for an increased SOB. Because of the SOB and being elderly, he matched the criteria for a Covid19 swab, which is why he was on our ward, alone, no visitors allowed. He had been stable all morning, so when he requested a shower the primary nurse helped him into the bathroom then left him. She went back and he was on the toilet trying to, well you know. The emergency buzzer goes off.
It takes 3 loooooong minutes to get into the room because of DRSABC. D for danger means making sure we apply PPE properly, we can’t rush these things, even if it means the difference between life and death, a thing that does not sit well with me, but it is a sign of the times. In the bathroom Patient X sits on the toilet, still conscious, talking. Saying he couldn’t breathe. The primary nurse had given a neb, which I had to run to turn off as we were not equipped to be giving aerosol-generating medications in the ward we were in. I grabbed the patient’s hand whilst asking for more oxygen, a hoist and more hands so that we could at least get the patient back to bed.
There weren’t even enough of us to safely lower him to the floor. I asked the patient whether they had chest pain, he said no. 2 minutes later he uttered I have chest pain, then his eyes glazed over and he started Cheyne stoking. By this stage the MET team had arrived, the patient was not for CPR. We lowered him onto the ground, and I was still holding his hand as he took his last breath, there on the bathroom floor.
It hit me, I started to cry, like an ugly cry. This man, all alone, had not been able to have visitors because of policy. We are the people the patients see, or at least our eyes are. That was the hardest thing in my 15-year career that I have witnessed. The gravity of the situation is there for me now. I will never again take for granted the power of touch for a patient. We are the frontline. We are the faces they will be seeing, not the faces of loved ones. And if you ever find yourself looking after Covid19 patients I implore you to take your time when in the room with them. Chat with the patient, smile with them, cry with them. We might just be that shining light that they Need in this awful, horrible time.
- Patients are often isolated and we are the only contact with the outside world, so take that
extra five minutes with them, make the time.
• If you find yourself with a patient that is dying, hold their hands because their loved ones can’t.
I leave with these words:
These are the eyes that greet you when you come to the hospital. If you are unfortunate enough to
be tested for Covid19 then these are the eyes of the healthcare workers who will be caring for
you either on Covid19 ward or the intensive care unit. These eyes don’t tell you much. But these eyes are smiling with you, laughing with you, crying with you, and are frustrated with and for you. These eyes understand you are at your most vulnerable and isolated.
If you don’t want or need to see these eyes, I implore you to STAY.THE.FUCK.AT.HOME