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My Lessons and Observations from COVID-19 Precautions Isolation

By: Natalie Lind

March 24, 2020

On March 18, 2020, I was taken to the Emergency Department of my local hospital for cough, fever and shortness of breath, classic symptoms of concern for COVID-19 patients. After an exam and some testing, I was admitted to the hospital and placed in isolation for COVID-19 precautions. It was a good and prudent decision by the hospital.

I remained in isolation until the results of my COVID-19 test came back negative. Make no mistake, it was not an unnecessary hospitalization. I had bacterial pneumonia and sepsis (I was sick!). For those of you who haven’t experienced it, being in isolation is a bit disconcerting and gives you lots of time to think. I thought about the people I had been around before I started to feel ill. Since we didn’t know the COVID-19 test outcome yet, I wondered if I had exposed the people closest to me. Would a member of my family get sick because of me? I wondered about the young man I interacted with at the grocery store who was bagging my groceries a few days before. I was feeling well at the time, but had I exposed him? And what about my caregivers? Although they always wore proper personal protective equipment (PPE), would one of my caregivers get an exposure during my care? I worried that the PPE they were using was dwindling their supply as they awaited a large influx of patients. I worried about a lot of things.

Since I was so sick, I spent a good deal of time somewhere between sleep and wakefulness. I could hear the caregivers outside my door inservicing their co-workers on proper donning and doffing of PPE and giving them words of encouragement. It was in one of those moments that my mind drifted back to the AIDS epidemic of the 1980s. As I laid there in isolation last week, I heard the fear in some of my caregivers’ voices as they donned PPE to enter my room. It swept me back to my SP staff in the 80s as we navigated the change that the AIDS epidemic brought with Universal Precautions (now Standard Precautions).

As a young manager then, I was more concerned with the process than the people. I worried about what and how. ‘Here is the information, here is the equipment, here is how we do it, failure to follow procedure will result in a write up.’ I never heard the fear in their voices, but it was there. Perhaps it’s maturity, but I heard it last week in the caregivers outside my hospital room. This is a frightening time for all healthcare personnel. All are doing what they are called to do. They are well-trained, but it is natural to be afraid. These are uncharted waters and we are all adrift. The best we can do is to help one another stay afloat by supporting each other as we move forward. Be understanding, be kind and always remember that we are in this together. To my caregivers and everyone out there who keeps the hospital running, thank you. You are all truly heroes. Godspeed!

Natalie Lind, CRCST, CHL, FCS, is IAHCSMM's Education Director.