Grey Nuns nurse puts impact of COVID-19 on front-line workers in perspective

EDMONTON —

An Edmonton nurse’s instagram post detailing the “new normal” of healthcare during the COVID-19 pandemic, gets support from people across the country.

Emails went out to hospital staff detailing how their roles would change in an attempt to stop the spread of COVID-19, but Chelsy Vanderberg said there was no way to prepare for the emotional impact it would have.

“It was like a hammer to my stomach,” said Vanderberg. “I’ve been a nurse since 2011 and this was the first time, when I came home, I couldn’t drop it. I couldn’t let it go.”

Now required to wear more personal protective equipment, including a mask, Vanderberg says it’s keeping colleagues from sharing the small, but uplifting exchange of a smile.

“It really changes how you interact with your patients and your coworkers, because it feels like a barrier,” says fellow nurse, Nicole Weir.

On Sunday, Vanderberg worked her first shift since the COVID-19 protection protocol was put in place, and she snapped a photo, later sharing it on instagram.

 

 

March 22, 2020 This is a day I will never forget. And it’s taken me a few days to put into words why. I cried at work this day. I cried a lot. I cried more than the time I handed a 5 month old deceased baby to her parents so they could hold her one last time. I walked in to the department and could not see a single one of my coworkers’ faces. Every face was now covered by a mask and face shield. In Emerg, we cope through the hard times with laughter, inappropriate jokes and smiles that say ‘I’m here for you’ or smirks that say ‘I didn’t see a thing’. This is the day I realized I would not see a smile at work for a very long time. The locker room, usually a place of laughter and decompression and relived light-hearted moments of the shift, was silent this day. The floor was lined with contaminated scrubs and the air, with fear and sadness. . This is the day I realized that Covid-19 was right here, in a place I call home. It’s the day I realized it was just the beginning. I changed my clothes and washed my hands for the millionth time. I cried the whole way home. I walked in to the house, washed my hands one more time and then I hugged my babies. I held them tight and I cried. March 22, 2020, Covid-19 broke me down. As a nurse, I signed up for this and I love what I do. My job is to care for the sick and the scared, and I will do so, every day, with brave eyes and a masked smile. I do not ask for sympathy. I just ask for understanding. #ADayInTheLifeOfCovid19 #PleaseStayHome

A post shared by chelsy vanderberg (@chelsyvanderberg) on

In the post, Vanderberg writes, “In Emerg, we cope through the hard times with laughter, inappropriate jokes, and smiles that say, ‘I’m here for you.'” She goes on to say, “This is the day I realized I would not see a smile at work for a very long time.”

It ends with the hashtag #pleasestayhome, encouraging everyone to self-isolate and practice physical-distancing to slow the spread of COVID-19.

“It can be hard to put into words, and I think she did a great job emulating what that feels like and helping the rest of us kind of put that into words in a really beautiful way,” said Weir.

The post was met with a flood of support, and “Thank You’s” from colleagues near and far, and shared over 3,000 times.

“I just thought if anyone needed to see this, here it is, the outpouring of love is insane. It is so heartwarming,” said Vanderberg.

Vanderberg is happy to see so many colleagues relating to her words, but she says it also serves as a plea to those not working in healthcare.

“It’s very important to keep yourself, your families and us healthcare workers safe. Because if we are sick, we can’t be there to help the people who really need it. So please, stay home.”

With files from CTV News Edmonton’s Joey Slattery.