In 2016, Teija was a student at Queen's University in Kingston, and a proud recipient of an EFC Scholarship. Today she is a nurse on the front lines of the fight against COVID-19. EFC asked her to share her thoughts.
My name is Teija Jõgi and I work at University Hospital in London, Ontario as a registered nurse on the Acute Medicine floor. I'm 24 years old.
Since COVID began we have been one of the designated COVID patient floors (ICU being the other). We have a designated COVID positive wing and the other wings have query positive patients - that means their test results came back positive for COVID.
At the start of this whole pandemic, there was a lot of high stress and unanswered questions for all of us. We were initially told we could only recieve 2 masks a shift, which was something we weren't used to, but we knew there was a real possibility that there would not be enough masks.
Some things we were unsure of at the beginning were:
- what PPE we should be wearing (eg. regular mask vs. N95s)?
- how critical the patients would be, and how exactly to take care of them?
- other than shortness of breath/ cough/ fever, what other symptoms would patients present?
Working during Covid and PPE
Now, 3 months later, a lot has changed. All hospital staff must wear a mask at all times. In addition, all staff must be screened before they enter the hospital and we have to wait in a sometimes long line-up outside the hospital to be checked for symptoms. I have personally experienced shortages on gowns and N95 masks, particularly the mask that fits my size (I can't wear the "new" N95s because they don't properly fit my face). We have been given new gowns, but the gowns we have currently sort of resemble garbage bags, which we tend to get very hot in. This being said, I'm thankful that I still have proper PPE I can wear and we haven't fully run out of supplies.
When patients are suspected of having COVID and admitted to hospital, many end up on our floor. But if their swab comes back negative, we have to move them to "clean" area - because they aren't infected. This means we have a faster turnover of patients, which makes our days more busy than usual.
But the challenges aren't only related to handling the patients. It's also frustrating at times because policies for patient care change often, and it's hard to keep track of what's current at times. In addition, it's been difficult to emotionally support families because visitors are restricted at this time. Naturally we get a lot of calls for updates and it's hard to hear the anxiety and sadness a lot of families express.
Thankfully, I think the stress on the floor has lessened slightly bcause staff has become more used to the situation. I feel personally my stress was never too high, but I also don't have children or other individuals to take care of at home.
Currently, my worry is how the reopening of stores/ services is going to affect the COVID curve and thus how severe the second wave it going to be at the hospital. At the beginning of the pandemic I feel the hospital wasn't fully prepared for it, so I'm also worried we won't be ready for the second wave since it is so hard to predict how it will all develop.
...and the future?
I hope in 5 years people continue to realize how important social connections are and stay more in touch with those they care about like they have been during the pandemic. That would be a really positive long-term effect of these difficult times.
Want to know more? Read First Person:Estos on the Front Lines: Kristiina Nieländer-Hildebrandt - an ER nurse at Toronto Western Hospital or First Person: Estos on the Front Lines: Tomas Saun - Surgical Resident at Toronto Western Hospital.