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Featured Opinion and Editorial

My day working at a nursing home during Coronavirus

I pull into the parking lot and go to the front door. I have to ring a doorbell to be let in because we are not allowing anyone who is not an employee inside.

Upon entry, I sanitize immediately. Then, I am screened by a nurse. I’m asked questions such as:

“Do you have a cough, sore throat, fever, etc?”

“Have you worked with someone who has been exposed to coronavirus?”

“Have you worked in a facility that has coronavirus?”

My temperature is taken and I sign and date the form, which I will see again at the end of my shift, where my temperature is taken again before I leave.

Before I go to clock in, I put my mask on; a bright blue N-95. It hurts my face, but it protects the patients. I leave the front entrance to go clock in.

The patients who I used to say hello to while walking to my department are now hidden in their rooms. The halls are empty, except for the nurses and aides, who are tending to the patients as if they were their own family.

As I pass the resident’s rooms, I yell “hello,” into them. The residents always yell “Hi honey,” even louder than I did. They appreciate any kind face that is there for them; they miss their families.

Image from CNN

Now that I am in my department, I get to work. My co-workers and I are like family, so we always get distracted while talking. As of late, there hasn’t been much talk. I’m a college student working with people ages 30 and up. They’re scared; they’re more at risk than me. I can definitely get coronavirus, but odds are, it would not affect me as much as them. We still make the most of the situation and joke to try and lighten the mood. We have had seven people quit since the outbreak, some that I was friends with. We’re hanging in there.

I have to go to the other side of the building, which like my side of the building, is under lockdown. The doors that connect the opposite sides of the building are shut, and there is a station set up with protective equipment before entering either side. I am not in direct patient contact, so I do not need the protective equipment.

It feels like another world in the building now. I don’t even recognize some of the aides and nurses because they are covered. The residents still say hello to me, despite their new world. They still talk to me – me in the hallway, them in their rooms. I have to yell because they can’t hear me that well. Despite everything going on, they still ask me how I’m doing. How am I? How are you? They treat me like I am their grandson, they treat everyone like that.

The nurses and aides in the building, despite call-offs and resignations, are as united as ever. All of us are. They, however, are the real troopers. They go into the resident’s rooms, take care of them, talk to them, feed them, whatever they need, all with a smile on their face. It’s a beautiful sight to see.

I go to look into the fridge on the other side of the building, and it is now stocked to the brim with sodas, waters, and snacks for all staff. Administration does not get enough credit. They’re the ones who make everything possible, fighting for what is necessary to keep staff and residents safe. Some even stay long hours to help their staff when they’re short. My boss comes in at 4 AM and does not leave until around 6 PM usually.

My family is in nursing home administration. I wake up, they’re on calls. I go to bed, they’re on calls. Whether it’s people yelling at them because they are stressed or someone asking them for advice, they’re always calm. When they hang up, well, that’s another story. They understand, however, that the people they’re on calls with are stressed, just like themselves. No one wants to deal with an agitated boss during this stressful time, so they remain calm. I come into their home office during the five minutes where they’re free and they ask how I’m doing. How am I? How are you? I could never imagine what all of the administration is feeling.

I’m done with my shift! I can finally head home! I head to the clock and clock out. I get to see my form from the beginning of my shift again. My temperature is taken, written down, and my form is placed in the completed forms box. I take my mask off and sanitize again. Once I get to my car, I sanitize yet again.

It’s a 40-minute drive home, but it’s relaxing, especially at night. There are only trucks on the interstate with an occasional car. The stars are much easier to see as well. 

Once I walk into my garage, I undress and put other clothes on. My scrubs are thrown immediately into the washer, so I do not bring anything into the house. Once I am all changed, I run to the shower, with a quick hello from my family, if I see them. Now that I am all clean, I go see my mom, who, still busy as ever, asks how my shift went.

If anything good can come from this pandemic, it’s the feeling of a united family and a greater appreciation for all healthcare workers and administration. At home, I have my family, where three-fourths of us work in healthcare, and at my nursing home, I have my extended family: the residents and staff.

We need to be there for each other. And don’t forget, wash your hands.