Name: Colette Wright
Place of Work: Spectrum Health
Job Title: Registered Nurse (RNC – BSN) in Labor and Delivery
1. Before the coronavirus outbreak, what did your responsibilities consist of?
“In a nutshell, I (with the collaboration of my co-workers) help women safely bring their babies into the world! Some days, I work in our OB triage where we see maternity patients that are anywhere from 20 weeks gestation to full term who come in with a range of pregnancy-related complaints and/or labor. Other days, I work on the labor and delivery floor where we help women deliver their babies in a variety of ways—including cesarean sections.”
2. How have these responsibilities changed or been added to?
“My job during this pandemic remains the same; I am a Labor and Delivery Nurse through and through. We are used to testing our patients for a variety of illnesses, but now we’ve added COVID testing to our responsibilities—which is no fun to administer and certainly wouldn’t be fun to be tested on.”
3. In what ways has the atmosphere of the hospital changed, on the whole, and in your unit?
“The atmosphere in the hospital is eerie and quiet. There is a looming sense of doom—like we’re just waiting for the storm to roll in, not knowing when it’s coming. There are certain doors we have to walk in [and] out of to get to work, and we are handed a mask as we enter the hospital after showing proof of a green checkmark from our cell phone: the result of a survey we have to complete prior to each shift. There are very few visitors wandering the halls and the cafeteria, there isn’t as much eye contact amongst strangers, [and] there’s a sense that we’ll never go back to the way it was before. My Labor and Delivery unit has about 140 nurses (all women), and the stress is high. We are worried about our patients and how visitor restrictions affect them and their experience, we are worried about each other, we are worried about our families, and we are worried about our own health through all of this. But there is an overwhelming sense of community and connectedness amongst us all—that we’re all in this together, lifting each other up.”
4. How has Spectrum Health adapted to prevent the spread of the coronavirus?
“Spectrum has done a great job in my opinion. I feel that they care about our mental wellbeing, our safety, and our patients and community. Through employee screening surveys, visitor screening, and continued communication with us, we know that they are doing everything they can to stay a step ahead. Labor and Delivery patients are now only allowed one visitor who must remain with them until discharge, when previously there was no limit to the visitor policy. We also now have to wear masks throughout our shift, and the patients and their visitor have to wear a mask.”
5. How have changes in the visitor policy affected your unit?
“Oh my goodness—this has been the hardest change for our patients. Labor and Delivery is a unique place in the hospital; our population, in general, is healthy and is here to bring life into the world. They want as many people as possible to be here to help celebrate that life. The restriction strips some families of bringing the siblings of these babies to meet their new baby brother or sister. Young moms have to decide between having their significant other or their mom by their side. Grandparents are no longer coming to celebrate a new grandbaby. It’s heartbreaking for our patients.”
6. Do your foresee any of the hospital’s temporary changes remaining permanent after the immediate threat of the coronavirus has passed?
“I do think—for our unit—once the COVID threat is over, our visitor policy will loosen, and there will be more than one support person allowed.”
7. How have changes in your job and the impact of the coronavirus affected your home?
“I find that I do fine at the hospital; I’m with my co-workers, and we’re all in the same boat, so to speak. Wearing our masks for 12 hours at a time is mentally exhausting. Not only does it prevent us from really bonding and connecting with our patients, it’s physically confining and claustrophobic feeling. When I get home at 7 p.m., I go straight to the shower. I find that I’m more tired at night the days I work and that I mentally have less energy to deal with life and home stuff. When I’m at home, though, I choose to not listen to the news or really engage with what is going on out there. It’s like watching a war from home knowing you’re going to the battle—there’s no escaping it. So, I cope at home by reading, walking, and just doing normal house things.”
8. Have you witnessed any scenarios of people rising up in the face of these stressful and challenging circumstances?
“My co-workers rise up every day. We come to work, put our masks on, and take care of our patients with as much heart and soul as ever. My family has donated hundreds of hand-sewn masks, cleaning supplies, and N95s. People have donated meals to our unit. As co-workers, we check in on each other and try to share all the funny memes that have come out of this—because I’m living for those. Healthcare workers have always been heroes in my book, and now the world is catching on to that, and I couldn’t be more grateful.”
9. In what ways can high school students help in these challenging times?
“My heart breaks for high schoolers right now. I mourn the loss of what should be the best times of your life right now. I think doing this—talking to the people who are on the front lines—is opening the door for empathy and a greater understanding of the world around you. There are many who may be thinking of a career in healthcare and may be either motivated or intimidated because of the COVID, but I assure you, if this is your chosen path, a global pandemic shouldn’t get in your way. The world needs you.”