By Wanda Waddy
It has been over one year since we were thrown into the pandemic. Like kids on a long car trip, we want to hurry up and get there. Well, how do we get there together if we are not all going down the same road?
Sometimes I feel like rather than a car trip, this is a roller coaster ride — and I cannot get off!
As a director of nursing for Sacred Heart Home, a long-term care facility here in Hyattsville, I faced the loss of my mother at the same time as my first positive COVID-19 case in the building. Because my mother lived in another state, I was unable to attend her funeral or visit her in the hospital. Amidst that stress and pain, I had the responsibility to lead the team in the remediation and eradication of this deadly virus in the facility where I work.
While others were quarantining at home, we were donning and doffing our clothing throughout the work day, and washing our hands upon arrival, upon leaving the facility, and whenever necessary for the care of the resident. We placed our personal items in a plastic bag whenever we entered the facility door.
We conducted temperature checks and COVID-19 surveillance every day on everyone and on every shift. This was not only time-consuming but stressful as we anticipated any one of us having to be sent home with COVID-19 symptoms on any day.
Over time, we could see the toll the confinement was placing on our residents. We had to instantly become their family members and confidants. Staff stepped out of their comfort zone to make every effort to meet the physical, mental and psychosocial needs of all of the residents.
Unfailingly, generous donations from the families, gifts of food and trinkets brightened the daily routine for all of us. Moreover, our administrator worked hard to ensure we had special treats to relieve our emotional burden as we fought the COVID-19 virus seven days per week.
Now, we fast forward to the present. The State of Maryland has allowed us to relax restrictions and create a semblance of normalcy. Residents are participating in more activities, and family members are visiting. Staff are wearing their regular pre-COVID clothing and no longer wearing hats.
Notwithstanding, we continue to wear our masks, practice infection control techniques, have our temperature taken and complete a COVID-19 surveillance survey daily. We are maintaining the course!
This journey has taught me it takes a team effort to deal with a pandemic. This effort has to transcend beyond the long-term care walls. I believe we all can embrace a spirit of cooperation. I call on each reader to be a Conscientious Virus Crusader by following seven steps:
- Step 1: Wear your mask — regardless of your vaccination status, if an establishment asks for you to wear a mask, respect their wishes.
- Step 2: Wash, wash, wash your hands for 20 seconds.
- Step 3: Social distance — maintain at least 6 feet of social distancing even if you have your mask on if you are not vaccinated.
- Step 4: Get vaccinated — building your body’s immunity is the goal!
- Step 5: Avoid crowds — refrain from participating in superspreader events if you are not vaccinated.
- Step 6: Empower others — educate those in your sphere of influence.
- Step 7: Stay informed — keep abreast of changes of not only the variants of the virus in your community but also improved infection control guidelines outlined by reliable sources such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (cdc.gov/coronavirus).
We all have the ability to lead others towards a movement of change. Healthcare providers who are no longer living amongst us made the ultimate sacrifice to lead us through the pandemic. Let’s honor them by temporarily refraining from behavior that counteracts our global efforts for stability. You may ask, “How can we do that?” That answer is easy! Everyone can do their part by becoming a Conscientious Virus Crusader. And, just maybe, we can get there sooner than later.
Wendy Waddy is the director of nursing at Sacred Heart Home.