Photo Credit: Nati Shohat / Flash 90

Hair net, N95, shoe covers, gown up, double glove, face shield. I have all my belongings to go into the patients room, or so I hope. I head in. I am friendly and smile to my patient even though my smile can’t be seen. I carry on. Vitals, medications, personal hygiene care, questions, answers, Oh wait, I forgot the patient asked for another warm blanket. I don’t see anyone in the hallway who can get it for me. I need to decontaminate before exiting, take off the gown, face shield, gloves, and get the blankets. Gown up again, double glove over my now sweaty palms and, oh, before I forget, the face shield. Okay, let’s do this again. This time I smile brighter; maybe then my eyes will smile, maybe my caring touch can be felt through my double gloves. I do the best I can to take care of this patient. I know this patient feels alone and I know this patient feels like he or she is being taken care of by aliens who all look the same. I do the best I can and I carry on. Onto the next patient in need.

I walk into work and in my mind I am preparing for battle. I need all my protective gear, all my supplies, a strategy, a plan of action, efficiency. How will I safely care for my patients today? How will I be able to care for them like I normally do despite our restrictions? How can I make sure I am protected? How much longer will we have to fight this battle? The hardest part of all of this is seeing the patients all alone, sick and alone. Talking to the worried family and trying to reassure them when I don’t feel reassured myself. Keeping the patients company without overexposing myself. This juggle, this pull, is the toughest part of it all.

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Until recently I worked as a Pre-op/PACU nurse at Memorial Hospital. With the decline of surgeries and increase in Covid patients, I have been transferred to be a resource nurse for the Covid unit and for the hospital as a whole during this trying time. This was and currently is a life-changing experience for me. An experience that I am grateful for and simultaneously humbled by. To see the fear in my colleagues eyes who yet still suit up, and to witness strangers coming together despite the tense atmosphere, these have made me delve deeper into who I am and into what role I can best serve the community around me further.

I thank all my fellow nurses who are fighting this battle with me. I know the challenge it brings, I know the worries you face. We are all in this together.

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Rochel Eleff is an RN at Memorial Hospital in Florida.