Two Nurses Fighting COVID-19 on the Frontlines of Two Different States Share Experiences
Two nurses in the U.S. have been on the frontlines through one of the biggest medical challenges in history.
California and Florida are amongst the most infected states.
California alone has over three million COVID-19 cases and over 40,000 deaths since Jan. 21 of last year.
California triage nurse, Cristina Washburn, works at the Sharp Coronado Emergency Department and spends most of her overnight shifts in the outside tents attached to the emergency department and loves every minute of her job helping others.
“I work the tents outside since the inception of COVID, and since we opened up that tent in March, I was one of the first night shift nurses out there,” Washburn told Scriberr.
“They asked people who wanted to volunteer to go out to the tent, and I looked at my crew and said I would.”
There are mixed views on whether states should be opening up again, especially since COVID-19 vaccine distribution began reaching individuals 65 years of age and older.
Washburn explained that many medical professionals have mixed perceptions of the virus in the emergency department.
It has led to their own opinions about the stay at home orders being lifted.
“In the ER, it is so political,” Washburn said.
“It’s like what you’re watching on TV because we see the same exact patient that the next person sees, but our perspective on the same exact person in the same exact situation is completely different.”
Washburn believes cities in California should be opening up despite seeing patients with COVID-19 cases every day because she is there to help those who need it.
“I became an ER nurse or a nurse in general to help people, and I help people who smoke, infect their lungs, and damage their lungs,” Washburn said. “And I’m going to help the person who has COVID from going out and living their life. Just the same.”
Washburn has seen the severity of patients with COVID-19 but has also experienced an influx of suicidal patients because of the stay at home restrictions.
“I have seen people in the ER who have come in suicidal, or kids, young kids, teenagers who have overdosed, this whole time,” Washburn said.
“So it’s, you’re either gonna die of COVID or you’re gonna die of overdosing and suicidal ideation because you can’t go out.”
ICU nurse, Alexandra Twele, works in the COVID unit at West Boca Medical Center in Florida.
Twele’s daily rounds in the COVID unit involve checking patients’ vital signs and oxygen levels with the virus.
Twele explained that depending on the severity of the infection and the number of patients admitted, her rounds could become more complicated.
“Our daily duties get even more complicated when we’re managing ventilators, managing drips, making sure they’re sedated,” Twele told Scriberr. “We’ve done what’s called roto-prone beds, where we’re putting patients on beds that rotate them for a certain amount of hours on their back and when they’re on that they have to be sedated as well as chemically paralyzed.”
Twele shared that her job is sad and sometimes hard to do because of some patients’ sedated state.
Some of the patients in severe conditions are titrated, meaning patients are given multiple drips in one line to help with the sedation and paralyzation.
“We’re responsible to control the fluctuations of their blood pressure, and if they’re so severely sick a lot of them are on what are called, vasopressors, which basically helps keep their blood pressure, you know, at a stable level,” Twele said.
“So, you’re titrating as what we call multiple drips; you know, they’re basically on life support, both sedated and paralyzed.”
West Boca Medical Center has two COVID units; Twele said that they were lucky to have patients’ space during their State surges of infection.
“I think we’re lucky just based upon the location that we’re in, I mean, there were times that I would say July was our worst, and I think that’s when Florida was in that big heavy surge,” Twele said.
“And we were, we were starting to experience the hospitals getting overwhelmed.”
When asked about Florida’s lack of stay at home orders, Twele was quick to disagree with some of the state’s guidelines.
“I think Florida definitely could have handled it better, and there should have been more with the mask mandates,” Twele said.
Twele hopes that people will continue avoid gatherings and continue to practice safe social distancing. However, she understands that the state’s reopening coincides with peoples’ eagerness to return to normalcy.
Recently, thousands of people have flocked to South Florida for spring break, as healthcare workers brace for a potential surge. The state has over two million COVID-19 cases as of March 21.