A written story submitted anonymously by a senior charge nurse working in a community hospital.
Everyone is talking about how their life has changed during lockdown. The only thing that has really changed for me is that everything is now about COVID. My entire working day is dominated by COVID. The advice, procedures, guidelines, and pathways are constantly changing. Now of course the changes are not coming as fast as they did in the beginning when we would start the day doing one thing and finish it doing something completely different. I am forever being asked if we are “busy”, of course I know what they are really asking but I cannot tell them. I usually say, ‘yes we are busy, but not in the way you would expect’. At times I felt like a cheerleader trying to find the positive in amongst the confusion and fear that was now part of everyday life.
My daily routine is getting up, go to work, come home, go to bed, get up, go to work, come home, go to bed…repeat. The sad thing is, that this routine, is what my life was like before all this started. One thing we all agree with is that we are the lucky ones. We still get to go to work, we are still earning a full wage. A lot of the time we feel normal or at least what passes for normal these days.
The one moment which sticks out for me the most is something which now feels almost insignificant. It was a normal Friday, normal for COVID at least. As usual just after 8am I joined the morning meeting by video conference. The only way any meetings are taking place these days. All the usual suspects are there and a few unusual ones as well. It was near the end of the meeting that we were told that from now on we were always required to wear surgical masks in the clinical area. In some areas this would be normal, and they would not think anything of it, but for us it was not normal. It was anything but normal. It would of course become normal for COVID. This was early in the pandemic, sometime before we were all to become used to wearing a face cover in shops and on buses. This made me feel quite nervous, not for myself but for the team of nurses, AHP’s and domestic staff to whom I was going to have to explain this new rule. They were all having their morning cup of tea and waiting for me to tell them what todays new rules and procedures are. What changes have been made. What is now expected of them.
I told them, they now always had to wear masks, and why this was a good thing. It would help protect our patients. It would help protect us. It took away any uncertainty or ambiguity about when and where to wear a mask. This is just now another time that I had to explain something new and unusual to people who where becoming used to the new and unusual because they are nurses, and this is their job.