Working with COVID-19


"File:A surgical mask (2017).jpg" by AlexChirkin is licensed under CC0 1.0

Katey Goins, Co-Creative Editor

Standing on the frontlines.

Those who have been most impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic are the ones who are working with it everyday. 

Since the beginning of the outbreak drastic changes have been made within medical facilities. However the change isn’t confined to the walls of these facilities, but to also the homes of those who work in them. But despite living in a world that is currently run by the COVID-19 pandemic, they don’t let it control them. 

Medical facilities today run nothing like they used too. They are taking their own steps and measures to ensure that while providing the best patient care, that they are also doing what is best for their employees and coworkers. Though the facilities are changing, patient behavior is changing along with it. “We have had to switch to the one week on and one week off schedule  which has been really crazy. I haven’t seen some of my coworkers in over two weeks now and won’t see them for at least another two weeks. Patients are trying not to come into the office now at all and some are even afraid. Most of them come in wearing homemade masks and some even have gloves on. I feel like we have seen an increase in patients who should have chosen to go to the ER but are so afraid to go into the hospital they have come to see us instead,” said Kaitlin Mattingly, medical assistant at Norton Healthcare. 

The safety precautions don’t stop in the office though, they continue at their homes. It has been very common for frontline medical workers to live completely separate from their families due to their possible exposure during the work day. Those who still live with their families though do everything they can to make sure they don’t bring that exposure to their family members. “I take my shoes off in the garage and run straight to the bathroom to disrobe and shower; followed by wiping any knobs and surfaces I may have touched. I have to keep away from my two kiddos when I first walk in the house. It’s more difficult if I’ve had to stop for groceries,” said Sarah Coulter, nurse practitioner at Norton Healthcare.  

While working with a widespread virus there have been many lessons along the way. “I think this has changed the way I look at things all together. It really made me realize how much we can do to prevent the spread of things and how serious cleaning rooms, wearing PPE, and washing hands correctly can prevent patients from being sick. Before I would just kind of go through the motions when doing those things but now I take it much more serious and really make sure everything has been wiped down,” said Mattingly.  

Along with new lessons there have been new challenges. “It’s made me more adaptable, which is always a struggle for me. Also the questions I receive from patients seem much different now, thus the answers are harder and less clear,” said Coulter.  

Given the uncertainty of a pandemic there is a lot of new stress in the workplace that can easily  carry over into homelife. When I get home from work I try to turn my off switch on and keep it all separate. Since the pandemic has started it has been hard to do that because everywhere you look you see coronavirus. I have found that when I get home and go straight to the shower I use that time as kind of like me time to get all my thoughts out before I enjoy the rest of the night with my husband. I have also been cooking a whole lot more which helps get my mind off it all. We stopped watching the news for the most part as well,” said Mattingly.  

Frontline workers have seen the worst of the pandemic and the power COVID-19 carries. With that, their fears and concerns are the ones that communities listen too. “My biggest concern lately has been the talks of opening things back up. I would feel as if we did that it would only make matters worse and the curve would just shoot right back up again. I also feel if things stay the same we will probably have an increase in mental health visits. I think we have already had more patients call about anxiety especially and I fear that things will only get worse,” said Mattingly. 

Despite all the tragedy that frontline workers see they aren’t short on positivity. “Since I am an outpatient provider the scenario is a little different, but I will say that what I want the world to know is that human compassion and empathy can go a long way. We all need to understand that with each additional new death we have lost a human being that made contributions to this world. We need to have compassion for each other and take measures to prevent losing more people,” said Coulter.