Straight Talk on COVID-19, Minus the Politics
Removing the politics and focusing on the facts, Dawn Patterson enlightens us with frontline facts, the impact on clinicians, and what we can do to make a difference and keep everyone safe.*
*The factual information is mainstream; the opinions are graciously given unsolicited by the author. They are honest opinions not meant to offend but inform from a totally biased clinician’s point of view.
Covid-19: A Frontline Perspective
By Dawn Patterson, MSN, CFNP, ACNP, ENP, Director of Advanced Practice Providers
Can you believe it has been a year? What I mean to say is, can you believe it has only been a year? We have faced challenges that we never thought we would face and our lives have been forever changed. Many of us have found out how much we can do when we have to and just how much we need each other. Your healthcare workers are exhausted physically and mentally. We want to be encouraged and have hope now that vaccines are coming out and PPE is more available. But, it is hard sometimes because we are still in the trenches fighting what feels like a constant battle. We are tired!
Everyone still has questions. Below are some FAQs surrounding the current pandemic.
Is Covid-19 really what is causing all the problems in health care today?
No. The United States’ healthcare system has been stressed for years. Being asked to do more with less has taken its toll. Clinician shortages, nursing shortages, and reimbursement challenges have pushed healthcare to the brink, and Covid-19 is the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back—pushing it over the edge.
Are there really not enough hospital beds?
When you hear that there are not enough hospital beds, sometimes there are literally no beds. Oftentimes, what that refers to is a facility’s ability to take care of a patient in that bed, i.e., available clinicians, nurses, housekeeping, and ancillary staff required to care for that patient. In addition, the patient may have a prolonged waiting time in the emergency department for an inpatient bed—hours to days. As you can imagine, this does nothing to help an already stressed emergency department.
Are patients really fighting illness and/or dying without their family members at bedside?
Yes. Due to the infectious nature of the virus and the high number of asymptotic individuals capable of spreading Covid-19, visitors are not allowed. This is to protect other patients and the facility staff. However, this does not mean the patients are alone. Their healthcare team is constantly in and out. We know how hard this time is on patients and their families. We know this is far from optimal, and we feel a sense of injustice for our patients. Denying visitors goes against many of the principals most of us have in relation to patient care. We do our best to stand in the gap to support and care for them when their families cannot. We are the first to celebrate when they are well enough to be discharged. We are also prone to becoming emotional and often cry when they die. Yes, it goes home with us.
Aren’t you afraid of contracting Covid-19?
Absolutely! We live in that fear daily. Is today the shift I catch it? It is true that the majority of patients have mild symptoms, if any, and recover. But approximately 10-20% of people are not as fortunate and have a severe illness with a real risk of death or long-term sequela. The difficulty lies in not having an accurate way to predict individuals in that 10-20%. Some typically healthy young patients die. Some frail, medically high-risk, elderly patients survive. We just don’t have enough data for reliable predictability. This provokes constant fear: if I catch it, will I be in the 20%?
However, as scary as contracting Covid-19 might be for most of us, what we are most afraid of is that we are a risk for everyone around us. We fear bringing it home to our loved ones the most.
How do I protect myself and my family from COVID-19?
Most of you can recite this by heart. Social distancing, avoiding large gatherings, washing your hands, using hand sanitizer and wearing a mask. Don’t hug or shake hands. If you are sick, stay home and get tested. If you must cough or sneeze, do so into your elbow. Please, get your vaccine as soon as possible. The majority of large outbreaks can be traced back to large gatherings: Mardi Gras, funerals, Thanksgiving and Christmas gatherings, etc.. They should be avoided. The exposure at these events and the effects it has on the already burdened healthcare system make us irate. The public demands healthcare teams be there to care for them when they are ill—we simply ask the same in return. We want the public to care for us and stop the senseless spread.
What about the mask? Isn’t it controversial whether they are helpful or not?
This is a topic that has been politicized and is polarizing for some people. However, COVID-19 is not aware of your political beliefs or affiliations. Rest assured when you and your healthcare team are fighting for your life against COVID-19, neither will care about the politics surrounding the mask. Are they perfect? No! Not much in life is. But if there’s ANY chance that we can do anything to avoid the spread of this disease, then we should do it. Taking preventative measures for yourself and others by wearing a mask is just the correct and moral thing to do. No further debate here. Wear the mask!!! Most of your healthcare team wears a much more constrictive N95 mask for upwards of 10-12 hours a day. I assure you, wearing a surgical or a cloth mask while you are out in public will not kill you.
What should I do if I get COVID-19?
First of all, isolate yourself at home while finding a way to get safely tested. If you test positive and have mostly mild symptoms, they can be managed at home. We do not currently have a cure for Covid-19. There are several medications/treatments in use or in trials now that are showing some very promising results, so hope is on the horizon. Most resources recommend taking supplemental vitamin D3, vitamin C, zinc, Zyrtec, Pepcid, and melatonin.
Patients exhibiting severe illnesses with shortness of breath, chest pain, or signs of dehydration should go to the emergency department to be evaluated. Call first to learn their Covid-19 patient intake procedure if possible.
People who require supplemental oxygen, become dehydrated from G.I. symptoms, or experience significant symptoms may be admitted for further management.
Remember the adage: prevention is worth a pound of cure. Do everything you can to stay well. Staying well includes mental and emotional wellness. Wash your hands, stay home, wear the masks, and get vaccinated!