The Reality of Being A New Nurse During COVID-19
This week, I touch on some updates about COVID-19, and how it’s affecting new nurses and nursing students. Experienced nurses are also dealing with a lack of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), making nursing the most hazardous job it’s been in recent memory.
I’m Alley, I am an ICU nurse that just graduated in December of 2019 from nursing school. It is March 23rd, 2020, and I wanted to give you all an update on last week’s coronavirus or COVID-19 video and this week’s video will touch on what it’s like being a new nurse or a nursing student in the middle of this outbreak today. So kind of a recap of last week’s video, we’re going to see what this far is that things really change every week.
So a recap of last week would be I covered that the ICU beds in the United States are much lower than the number of projected cases of COVID-19 and that essentially we’re going to run out of ICU beds, ICU nurses, doctors and ventilators for patients that can’t breathe on their own. Since I filmed last week, many US counties have ordered a “shelter in place” where people can only go out for essential errands or to work for essential jobs. People are also socially isolating, staying six feet away from other people in public, or only going out when they absolutely need to. One thing is for sure the current efforts of the country in the United States are not working and this virus is going to exponentially explode in cases and we have already seen that happen so far within a week. I will say that it is very mentally exhausting trying to convince people to socially isolate, I think a lot of people would agree with me on this and I think a lot of people believe that it is temporary, that we’re only going to be under this social isolation or quarantine for a short amount of time. That, in my opinion, is not true.
We’ll be seeing a huge rise of cases in this virus and COVID-19 is going to be in the headlines for months to come. A few new blurbs about this virus I wanted to touch on from the last video is it is really affecting younger people. A lot of young people are being hospitalized, getting very sick, and dying from this virus. You can also be an asymptomatic carrier of this virus for a while or for the duration of having the virus. So even if you feel okay, you may be walking around and exposing other people to the virus. This is why we’re wanting people to stay inside and stay isolated, even if they feel fine because they could be carrying the virus and passing it on to other people. Whether that is younger people, people with preexisting conditions or older people it’s looking like this virus really isn’t asking for ID as much as we thought they were.
And I also have noticed that Americans think that preexisting conditions mean something different than they do. Preexisting conditions can mean you had bronchitis a couple of months ago, it can mean you had childhood asthma, it can mean that you are obese or overweight, It could mean a lot of things. A lot of Americans have preexisting conditions, so you may be at risk for contracting this virus even though didn’t think you were. Now that I’ve gotten the mandatory doom and gloom out of the way or really mandatory information out of the way, I wanted to share what it’s like to be a new nurse or a nursing student in the middle of this outbreak. I will say a new nurse when I go into the hospital to work, I feel like everything is out of control because it’s looking like this virus is staying on surfaces for a long time. It is March 23rd as I’m filming this and the CDC did just release a report that they found the COVID-19 virus had lingered in the Diamond Princess cruise ship for 17 days.
Now it’s not guaranteed that you can be infected by COVID-19 after 17 days, but it still existed on those surfaces, the same virus, and infected all those people in the Diamond Princess cruise ship at the beginning of the year. So my advice from the last video is still intact. Don’t touch your face and hand hygiene because we are not sure how long this virus is going to infect people from just sitting on surfaces. I will say as a new ICU nurse, I feel thrown into the field with little preparation. It’s not the fault of anything but COVID-19 my nurse residency classes have been canceled because it is a gathering of more than 10 people and my critical care classes have been canceled so I should be introduced to things like chest tubes and like feeding tubes in a classroom setting, but in reality, I’m being introduced to those things on real patients because instead of working two shifts and a class, I’m now working three shifts a week just like every other ICU nurse with experience.
I will say that the general anxiety of this situation on top of classes being canceled makes me feel very unprepared for being a critical care nurse and I feel like my skill was just aren’t up to par. I feel fumble and like my brain capacity is not getting to the point where I am performing skills at the level that I should be. I have felt like I don’t know anything, I’ve felt like I’m not qualified to be there, I felt like my brain is working slower and I will say I do feel like my skills won’t be good enough to be a good ICU nurse during this pandemic in the months to come. I do think I speak for a lot of new grads when I say my general anxiety level in taking care of patients has increased, whether they’re COVID positive or not. I don’t think this is unique to nurses. I do feel like a lot of people are feeling anxious these days and so nurses are coming into work and having to work with those general higher anxiety levels.
Everything is out of whack, restaurants are closed and gatherings are closed and events are canceled and so those higher anxiety levels are contributing to feeling like you’re not providing good care. Now that I’ve touched on new grads, let’s talk about nursing students. I think it is crazy that some nursing students have had to come in and expose themselves to COVID-19 with no license and they’re not being paid. So some nursing clinicals have not been canceled, I won’t throw out university names and I thought that was insane. These nursing students need to stay home because there’s nothing that compels them to go expose themselves and their families to this virus. They’re not getting paid, they don’t have a license. If you’re a nursing student and you have had to gown up with PPE and go into a COVID-positive patient’s room or a rule-out for COVID, let me know.
I want to know it, I would keep you anonymous, but I want to know if schools have been literally putting their students on the front lines. I’m gonna get real here with this video. Even those of us that have nursing licenses and are getting paid, we did not sign up for this. With nurses in general, we’re quickly finding out there is not enough personal protective equipment or PPE. Nurses are having to go into COVID-19 positive patients’ rooms without the proper masks, gowns, or gloves to deal with the situation. It is not okay to send firefighters out without suits and hoses, it’s not okay to send soldiers out with fake guns. Why is it okay to send nurses directly in harm’s way without proper protective equipment? I will take care of the patient. I will take care of your COVID-19 positive family member. I would prefer not to do it with a bandana tied around my mouth instead of a mask. A bandana is not adequate protection, a reused mask is not adequate protection. We need to address this now because nurses did not sign up for this.
I know a ton of nurses are getting emails from their hospitals, if the hospitals are transparent saying we have X amount of days left of surgical masks, we have X amount of days left of N95 masks. Please use this wisely. Please understand that we’re short on PPE. And that’s scary. I’ve never imagined that we would be at this point. I don’t know what the solution is, manufacture more, look for donations I don’t know, I’m just a nurse, but that’s definitely a huge problem that’s happening in the US right now. And you can’t pay nurses the same and you can’t act like nurses signed up for this when they cannot properly protect themselves. That’s all I’m pointing out here.
So that’s the update on the situation right now, my feeling, I’m going on record that all ICU nurses in the country of the United States will become COVID-19 ICU nurses by the end of April if not earlier. Different unit managers may not agree with me on that. I know that a lot of unit managers have been trying to keep COVID-19 patients off of their ICU units and setting up separate hospitals but I think however many beds we designate elsewhere, is going to bleed into every ICU that is hard-hit by COVID-19. If you are a new graduate nurse, a new ICU nurse, or a nursing student, know that I kind of get what you may be feeling right now. I do feel like I am not prepared for this pandemic and that my skills should be more up to par. I feel like I need more experience to handle this and that I want to be more useful than I am. It’s okay to be new, it’s okay to learn on the go like this.
I don’t want any nursing students exposed to COVID-19 but I know you’re feeling this way. We can push through these circumstances and really learn a lot in the middle of this pandemic. I do think the situation will get worse, way worse before it gets better, but I don’t think that means we should stop social isolating. I think people in the general population need to prepare to be socially isolated and living a different way of life for a while, several months. So I know that’s kind of hard to picture, but that’s how we’re going to stop this part of the virus and flatten that curve out and see if we can keep up with the demand for ICU beds that I’m already seeing right now. Let me know if you’re a nursing student that has been exposed to someone that is COVID-19 positive, let me know if you’re a new graduate that is feeling some type of way about studying in this pandemic. I want to hear those stories. This has been my update for the week of March 23rd on the COVID-19 crisis. I won’t be exclusively making videos about this, but I just wanted to do short update videos. Kind of as a journal on how this whole thing is going. Thanks for checking in y’all. Bye.