What Life is Like For Healthcare Workers During the COVID-19 Pandemic

“Everyday we come [to work] it’s different,” said Rachel Gilio, a nurse in the Intensive Care Unit at Edward Hospital. “Patients are different, we have different staff coming in and helping us, it’s been a shock how much has changed.” Adapting is what Gilio and other frontline healthcare workers must do to respond to the ever-changing COVID-19 pandemic.

Healthcare Workers’ Routine

They’re getting their temperatures checked before they come into work and have to wear personal protective equipment all day.

“It’s hot, it’s hard to breathe in,” said Gilio. “Nobody can hear you when the doors are closed, so you’re trying to shout through the window to the people that you need. And your jaw starts to get sore, and your nose gets sore. And this is much less pressure on your face than the respirators.”

Gilio is referring to these 3M P100 respirators that Edward provides because they can be used repeatedly, unlike disposable N95 masks.

Thinking Outside the Box

To get through the communication barrier, nurses have come up with a creative solution.

“We got iPads we’ve been using and we can call into the room and talk to the patients from outside the room so they can hear us better,” said Bonny Dieter, a clinical leader in the Pulmonary Medicine Unit at Edward Hospital.

Helping Out in The Fight Against COVID-19

The other Pulmonary Medicine Unit Clinical Leader, Juliette Blondis, said the unit has shifted its focus to help with the fight against coronavirus. The department has been helping out at the ICU since mid-March.

“Initially, when we moved over here it was scary for everybody”, said Blondis. “This is a whole new virus, and we’re not really sure how to take care of these patients initially, so I think there was a lot of anxiety. [But] it’s gotten a lot better.”

Mental Health Resources

Blondis credits Edward for improvements like a “Healing Team”, which provides staff with mental health resources.

“It’s a group of counselors from Linden Oaks Hospital that are here to debrief staff. They can go in and chat, they can go with their fellow nurses or techs and just talk about the anxiety that they are having,” said Blondis.

She also said the hospital has a relaxation room if staff need a minute to decompress.

Staying Away From Loved One

Both healthcare workers said their personal lives haven’t really changed, but admit not seeing their parents has been hard.

“Obviously my parents are old[er], they’re in their 60’s, but you don’t want to pass anything on so I haven’t seen them,” said Gilio.

“My dad, I haven’t been able to see him, and it’s been really hard. And my other family, like my sisters, I’m keeping away. Coming up is Easter and we’re not going to be doing anything, just going to be staying home. So that’s definitely been a challenge,” said Blondis.

Community Support

Though healthcare workers are fearful in the battle against COVID-19, there is a silver lining, and that’s the outpouring of community support.

“I feel like it’s inspiring all of us everyday to continue doing what we’re doing,” said Blondis. “I mean, we haven’t had to buy lunch I don’t think at all for the last three to four weeks. Everyday we get lunch delivered, people are sending cards, and I just feel the community support is overwhelming.”

“Like all the thank you notes from all the kids is really nice,” said Gilio. “Our break room is covered with thank you notes, and we keep getting more and more. It means a lot. All the kids and Girl Scout troops, school classes that aren’t in school, [and] there’s just so many cards. It’s really nice.”

Advice For The Community

Having first-hand experience battling COVID-19, Gilio says it’s best for the community to stay home and safe during the pandemic.

“We’re all susceptible to this, and I see how sick you can get, and none of us ever want to have to go through that,” said Gilio.

Blondis says that even though we are apart, we can still come together. “We just need to support each other and get through this hard time and I know we will do that,” said Blondis.

For Naperville News 17, I’m Christian Canizal.

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