A nurse’s notes from the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic

I’ve always been interested in critical care nursing. I find the complexity of caring for patients on the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) invigorating. So many variables need to be considered before every decision — if you choose X, then it could cause Y, and then Z might be an issue, too. But I also love being able to relieve some of our patients’ suffering and bring emotional comfort to them and their families. That’s why the coronavirus (COVID-19) has presented such a challenge to nurses. The pandemic brings a whole new level of complexity to our job. Here are some of my observations from the field, as an ICU nurse serving on MD Anderson’s COVID-19 unit. Hardest ‘side effect’ of COVID-19 pandemic: physical distancing Without question, the most difficult aspect of caring for patients with COVID-19 is that we can’t just walk in and chit-chat the way we used to. Nurses’ interactions are very limited now because we try not to go into our patients’ rooms too often. I’m not really worried about catching the coronavirus myself — at least not from my patients or colleagues. Everything at MD Anderson is set up in such a structured way. We have all the protective gear we need on the COVID-19 unit, spotters to help us take off our soiled gowns and open doors, and cleaning staff who are constantly wiping things down. Everyone is being really cautious and practicing social distancing. So, I feel like I’m in the safest place I can possibly be. But our patients rely on us for human interaction, too. And even that is super-limited now....