“Adaptive” is how two local nurses described their colleagues and profession through the last year of the pandemic.
On Monday, May 10, Canada celebrates National Nursing Week. The Record spoke with a pair of local nurses on the various stresses, challenges and successes working through COVID-19.
“It’s worrying more than just doing your job appropriately, you’re worried about becoming sick. It’s always in the background,” said Michael Proud, a former emergency room floor nurse at Mission Memorial Hospital. He recently transitioned into a clinical nurse educator.
“The constant fear of passing it on to people outside, your family, that wears you down.”
He described nurses being affected by “COVID fatigue.”
Emergency rooms are challenging work places to begin with, but the introduction of a highly infectious virus into the environment has added pressure to the “overwhelmed emergency unit,” said Proud.
On top of that, healthcare professionals have to adapt to new research and information as scientists learn more about the virus and its variants, Proud said, adding he has weekly meetings as an educator to stay up to date.
Proud described nurses having to pick up workloads from their colleagues, and how their support for one another is a success story.
And while dealing with worried family members is one of the many “hats nurses wear,” he said the isolation is adding another challenging layer.
“There’s never enough information you can give them,” Proud said.
But he’s personally never experienced any COVID-denial – something that Carelle Mckellan has had to face.
She’s a Mission nurse who worked as a contact investigator for Fraser Health, before changing jobs to become a communicable-disease nurse coordinator in April.
“Our job is to be a detective and try and figure out where transmission has occurred,” she said. “The majority of people have been very honest with us … (But) we’ve had people that have shouted at us, and swore at us.”
Fraser Health have pulled together multiple health departments to assist public nurses overwhelmed by contact tracing, Mckellan said, listing the streamlining and teamwork of the task is one of their biggest successes.
She said the worst thing about the virus is that sometimes, people don’t feel sick at all. Not only does this make it challenging to track, but it’s seen as a burden when people are forced to isolate.
There are times when people lie about gatherings because they worry about the consequences, other times they feel guilty, and sometimes they express annoyance at those who are sick, according to Mckellan.
“I’ve been a nurse for 25 years, and I can say honestly, I’ve never been through something like this in my life,” she said. “We’ve had to be counsellors on the phone; we’ve had to link up people with social workers, because financially, they’re broken.”
One of the biggest challenges has been keeping the public informed, and dealing with the misinformation circulating on the web, Mckellan said.
“Maybe their family don’t believe in vaccines, maybe they don’t believe in wearing masks, maybe they think that this is a hoax,” she said. “I can only inform them to the best of my ability, if they are willing to listen.”
She said her colleagues have been a lifeline throughout the pandemic, and wants to thank them for their support.
“We’ve leaned on each other, we’ve cried, we’ve laughed,” Mckellan said. “We don’t want to be doing this like everybody else.”