Open Accessibility Menu

RNs on the ICU: COVID-19 Did Not Come with a Textbook

RNs on the ICU: COVID-19 Did Not Come with a Textbook

It’s not easy being a nurse, but when you’re fighting a virus that is new and unpredictable, a virus hitting some with a punch and others with only a scrape, it can be scary and perplexing.

Two DCH RNs, among several other RNs, are in the thick of COVID-19. They see the randomness of the virus daily as they care for patients on 3 Southeast at DCH Regional Medical Center. What is normally a Peds Unit has been converted to a temporary ICU.

RN Donna Lamkin is assisting on the unit since her regular job as a nursing team leader on the Post Surgical Unit is on hold due to no elective surgeries. But she isn’t a stranger to the ICU. She only recently left Medical ICU as a nursing team leader. “The [virus] is like a crapshoot. There doesn’t seem to be a rhyme or reason as to who will be the sickest,” Lamkin said.

She and RN Jessica Box have cared for COVID-19 patients ranging in age from the 30s to the 80s. “Some people have no symptoms and some it throws them for a loop. That’s why it’s so important for people in the community to stay at home,” said Box, who has been a nurse just six months after several years as a patient care assistant. Her home unit is the Medical ICU.

While taking care of patients is a challenge, Lamkin said that families not being able to visit their loved ones is the hard part of all of this. “I can’t fathom not being with them,” she said, thinking of if her own children had the virus.

But families have understood about the necessary visitation restrictions currently in place. “I just try to give them extra love,” Box said. Using the Apple iPads provided by IT has certainly been a help to nurses updating families on a known schedule, she said.

Both nurses noted the teamwork that’s been a hallmark at DCH during the virus outbreak. From Supply Chain staff finding new PPE sources to Pharmacy keeping needed medications stocked and Environmental Services working diligently to clean rooms, along with the cooperative spirit among the various ICUs, employees have supported the COVID-19 effort in a big way.

“I’ve never seen anything like this in my 27 years,” Lamkin said. “There was no textbook to guide us, but I feel we’ve handled it pretty darn well.” And every day, the processes put in place have improved, she said.

Outside DCH, community support has boosted the nurses’ spirits. “Everyone has stepped up,” Lamkin said. “They are feeding us. We feel very appreciated.”

Just stepping onto the converted unit of 3 Southeast reminds you of the reality of the virus. A doctor and nurse reviewing a patient’s chances of recovery, seeing the donning of face shields – it’s not an episode of “Grey’s Anatomy.” It’s the real deal. It’s life and death.

But these RNs put worries of their own risk aside. “You have to have faith that we’re going to be OK. Being a mom, I’m thankful that there are people willing to put their lives at risk for others,” Lamkin said. “That’s what we are called to do.”