My Covid Perspective as a Travel Nurse in Canada
We are so sick of hearing “stay at home”, we’re so sick of the same sign outside of every business saying the exact same thing, (why do we even need them anymore? We know we have to wear a mask!), we’re sick of masks, of isolation, of washing our hands, of the memes, the zoom chats, the puzzles and buying tracksuits (ok maybe this is the exception). We’re tired of over used terminology and hearing things like “social distancing” and we’re even more tired of living it. Nobody planned for this “new normal” to take us into 2021 and yet here we sit, almost a year into this “thing”. The paniversary if you will…
I’ve been watching episodes of all my guilty pleasure reality shows (KUWTK and the Housewives of every city in the states) and they’re all airing episodes now of when corona first hit and how scared everyone was. It’s so interesting looking back on it and seeing how far we’ve come, how much has changed but also how much is still the same. In March we couldn’t imagine this lasting until May or June and affecting the summer. In the summer we couldn’t imagine this would carry on into the fall and DEFINITELY not into Christmas. It’s now 2021 and there is hope and a vaccine is available but it’s still a long road ahead.
I keep comparing this to the war (hear me out, I realize it is not NEARLY the same but there are several similarities that help get me through). When WWII first started, no one had any idea it would last for 4 years. No one was prepared for what was to come. People had their children taken away, their radio’s, their livestock and food taken away and were left with the absolute minimum to survive. People had to give up their houses and land. Nobody knew if or when they would see their loved ones again. Men were ordered to go to war, leaving women and children left to wonder if they’d ever see their husbands and fathers again. Nobody had phones or facetime or even a postal service to keep in touch. So from this perspective, we don’t have it bad at all, but I realize this isn’t helpful for everyone and times have changed.
There are several different stages to the corona virus and affect all of us globally but also affect us all differently. Some people have been “stuck” at home since March, working from home, staying at home, teaching their kids from home, home, home, home. Others have lost things; jobs, business’ friends and family, stability, trips, weddings, graduations, etc. Some people have been working in essential roles on the “front lines”, risking their health every day. Some people have been working around the clock on research and a vaccine and under pressure 24/7 to create something that works effectively but also is available as soon as possible, but also required to be tested thousands of times so it can be distributed globally. Other people have had to be admitted to the hospital with no visitors, mothers have had to deliver babies alone, patients have had to start chemo treatments alone, patients have had to wake up from coma’s and find they are alone. Seniors have had to lose the minimal interaction they had and most of them wake up every morning and need to be reminded about the virus and why they can’t see their families, every single day due to memory loss. People with pets have had to wait in parking lots for hours anxiously awaiting an outcome from surgery or a diagnosis. Some people have got the virus, some people have been lying in hospital beds struggling to breath, knowing Corona took two family members already and they are at risk of being the next. The list goes on and on. We have all been affected in some way.
Having worked as a nurse in 5 facilities since the corona virus hit Canada, I have experienced corona in many forms. I feel like I’ve been able to witness several things inside hospital walls and have a perspective that many are not privy to. Having covid myself I also gained perspective on what it’s like to self isolate in a hotel room for ten days in a town where I knew nobody.
I think it’s easy for people who haven’t been affected in many ways to jump to conclusions that it isn’t real, it’s easy to want to blame the government or another country, or scientists for not discovering science quick enough. It’s easy to wish things would “go back to normal” and for “pre-covid life” to come back.
Truth is, it likely won’t ever be the same. I believe stores will reopen and masks will eventually be a thing of the past, people will travel again and have weddings and parties, but we’ve changed as a species.
I want to share some of my experiences as a nurse working all over Canada in different cities and towns and the things I learned. I’m going to make it a point form list so I don’t overwrite my welcome.
COVID HAPPENINGS FROM CANADA
- I spent almost 4 months on a covid unit in Ontario where people would be admitted while their swabs were pending. These patients were treated as being positive until the swabs came back. In four months I didn’t see a single positive test
- I spent the first couple months of covid working on a small island where we were put under strict lockdown and very few people were allowed off of the island. I was one of those select few. The freedom I felt when on the ferry leaving the island was something I will never be able to put into words. It was on this island that we also had a 9pm curfew and a siren sounded for a minute every night signaling for everyone to get inside. It was right out of a movie like the purge. Super freaky!
- It was also on this island that I saw covid for the first time, square in the face and I was scared. We didn’t know as much then and the news was rampant and I was really scared and it was here that it first became a reality for me.
- I was diagnosed with my own case of covid on Boxing day of 2020.
- When I was first diagnosed with covid my main symptom was extreme body aches that were so painful I had to take two advil every four hours just to lie comfortably in bed. I’ve never had aches like this before.
- A symptom I wasn’t expecting and hadn’t heard anyone talk about before, was what can only be described as an “out of body, floating experience”. I was staying in a small town and had no car and didn’t want to take a cab so I walked to the covid testing center (30min each way). I felt so weak but knew I had to push through just to get there and get home. As I was walking I could feel my body rising above myself, as if I was floating over top of my body and seconds later I would kind of jolt and feel my body again. I never missed a step when this happened and anyone in the medical profession could chalk this up to being a mild delirium from a fever but I never once had a fever. I can’t explain what this was but I thought I’d mention it here.
- I lost my smell on Dec 30th 2020. To this day I still cannot smell
- I won’t say where this occurred, but there was a place I worked, on a covid unit that had to resort to using a refrigerated transport truck trailer as a backup morgue because the demand was too high for space in the morgue.
- I work many shifts on covid units. I will admit that even as a seasoned nurse, there are things I didn’t consider happening that I wasn’t prepared for. Working on a covid unit I assumed all my patients would have covid, but for some reason I figured they wouldn’t have other problems. I saw covid positive patients that were also homeless and testing positive for STI’s and pregnant. I saw covid positive patients with severe mental health issues that were admitted for their mental health but because they were also positive they were placed on my unit, where none of us were properly trained to deal with mental health on that level. I am not a mental health nurse.
- I worked in a nursing home and was able to sit and talk to so many people who were in an inbetween stage of dementia where they forgot there was a pandemic going on, or didn’t understand it, yet understood fully that their families couldn’t come visit. But it was also here that I saw staff try their DARNDEST to make them feel connected. They set up facetime and window visits with family and these always broke my heart. I couldn’t watch them without getting emotional
- I worked one place that required me to wear just a mask every day, even for patient care. This wasn’t a covid unit but still it seemed like I was underdressed.
- I worked another place that required me to wear goggles and a mask and be screened every day on my way into work, I had to have my temperature checked every 4 hours but the PPE they supplied was not hospital grade and I doubt it’s protection abilities. Also not a covid unit but I prefer to wear gloves that aren’t used for making sandwiches.
- When I had covid, I spent 10 days alone in a hotel room. This was such an interesting experience in so many ways but it was never that terrible. Time still passed and I managed to keep myself occupied.
- There is a very strange mentality that accompanies a positive covid test. When I was first allowed “back into society”, I felt like I had to tell everyone that I was positive, but when I told people they would back up and didn’t want to be near me (understandably, but I was cleared from public health). I walked up to the doors of the grocery store on my first day out and the big sign that said “if you have any of these symptoms, do not come in the store” glared at me. I felt that by going into the store, I was doing something illegal even though I no longer had symptoms. Everywhere I went I felt like I had this big secret. Going back to work was tough because I knew I was the talk of the hospital. People I had never met before were coming up to me and saying “oh you’re the nurse that got covid”. It took a couple days to get through this part. This is the part that they don’ t prepare you for in covid positive school 🙂
- I live in Vancouver and we haven’t had a lockdown since the initial one in March/April.
- I was in Ontario for the summer and my family is there and they have had multiple lockdowns lasting for weeks
- My cousin is in Ireland and they can’t go past 5kms of their home. It used to be 2kms.
- I am headed to the Yukon in April and I am required to isolate there for 2 weeks but am able to come in to work my shifts but I must go straight home after and not go anywhere else.
- I know people that have gone to the Bahamas during this, I have friends that have not left the house in months, I have friends that have obeyed every rule and others that can’t be bothered. It’s so crazy to me how people’s take on covid has affected their relationships with others. We all have a covid personality, and it’s crazy what we all base our thoughts and opinions off of. This blows my mind. People are showing their covid colours!
- Remember at the beginning when the grocery store shelves were bare?!
- Fun fact! I’ve made it an entire year without ever having to pay for a mask.
- It’s amazing how many things can be done virtually. It’s a nice perk when you live far away from your family.
I realize this has been so uniting as a world; when have we ever, every country and every nation, had to get through the same thing, together? That is something unique and crazy to wrap your head around, but amongst that unity is so much distance. This has affected us all in so many similar ways, but yet each so differently. Same storm, different boats.
It’s not over, there’s a faint light at the end of the tunnel, but the end is not clear. It’s crazy to think back to just a year ago when we were saying things like “I’ve had to postpone my trip or my wedding by 3 months” or “by the summer…” or “this will definitely be over by Christmas”. I know many of you have lost things, many of you have missed out on things, milestones cannot be celebrated, but I think we’ve all gained something too.
Raise a corona with me and toast “to the virus that made us all homebodies, that urged us to be creative with how we spend our time and that forced us to stop and really think about what is important to us in this crazy, unpredictable, short, sweet, life”.
I love you, you’re doing great.