A new virus has arrived, and in a blink of an eye the world met a new reality. With numbers rising daily, this coronavirus, COVID-19, has infected over one million people, while it freezes international travel, extinguishes economic activity and confines half of humanity to their homes.
What was considered normal, is no longer “normal” and we don’t know when we will return to that reality. There is no agreed-upon strategy on how to return life to “normal”. Experts say some changes expected to see in the coming months or years might feel unfamiliar or unsettling.
It’s important to say that while all this is happening, we truly depend on our health care professionals. Without them, we won’t make it through this crisis. These frontline health workers labour selflessly to take care of us. We call them heroes, but they are human beings with families, with fears and with loved ones they can’t be with right now.
In this edition of Milénio Stadium, we want them to know that we appreciate the efforts but we also want to hear their perspective and understand how they are doing and what they are feeling. We had the chance to speak with Jennifer da Cruz, a luso-descendent, registered nurse, who is on the frontline taking care of high-risk potential cases.
Milénio Stadium: Knowing this virus was already spreading, at least, since the beginning of the year, do you think health professionals were aware of what was coming, or do they feel you were not expecting something of this magnitude?
Jennifer da Cruz: No, I don’t believe that health care professionals were not expecting the magnitude of COVID-19 although, health care professionals have been outstanding keeping up to date with credible resources such as CDC and WHO and following health guidelines and recommendations as we all follow this pandemic day to day.
MS: I’ve read an article where a family doctor said: “none of us have been trained to work during a pandemic”- explaining the clinics are struggling to maintain care. Do you feel the same stress at the Hospital? Or do you believe health professionals are adapting well to the situation?
JC: In this moment, in any health care setting there is definitely a sense of stress. I believe that health care professionals are adapting appropriately to the pandemic and advocating appropriately for their safety and rights while working under such strenuous and unpredictable conditions.
MS: What’s the environment like at the Hospitals right now?
JC: I would describe the environment within Hospital as extremely supportive. Staff and patients have been extremely appreciative, respectful and helpful with one another during these unprecedented times. A sense of teamwork and unity radiates within the hospital daily.
MS: Have there been any concerns with supply of personal protective equipment?
JC: As of right now there have been no concerns with personal protective equipment (PPE). The Hospital has been able to supply staff with the appropriate PPE without limitations. The only difference during this time is PPE being counted as a means of understanding the amount of supplies needed between various units and care settings.
MS: Does the government, in your opinion, need to take any extra steps to protect workers’ health?
JC: Health care workers are the means of making sure the community’s health is cared for. I believe that if a shortage of PPE does happen, the government would need to take extra steps to protect workers’ health and ensure that they have they have the right amount and quality of equipment to protect both themselves and the community.
MS: I know you work with the older patients in Complex Continuing Care. Do you feel the pressure to be working with high-risk Covid-19 potential cases?
JC: Anyone working with such any vulnerable population has definitely felt the increase in pressure of working as a health care provider. Luckily, with such a supportive team, amazing patients and following COVID-19 guidelines and recommendations, everyone has joined together to ensure the safety and health of staff and patients remains a priority during this time.
MS: Are you scared to be working during this time?
JC: Personally, I am more appreciative than scared to be able to work during this
time while acknowledging the risks associated with being a nurse. Being provided the appropriate education, personal protective equipment and support to keep myself and others safe from COVID-19 assists tremendously in being able to continue working safely and effectively during this time. I have noticed a significant increase in the number of hours being worked as I find myself working almost 60-hour work weeks due to the increase in workloads within the hospital.
MS: Some people – a lot more than it should – are still not respecting quarantine and social distancing. How does a nurse feel when you see Lakeshore full of people on a Sunday afternoon?
JC: As a health care provider, I believe everyone should be respecting quarantine and social distancing recommendations. I do acknowledge that change does not come easy and to those finding it difficult to abide by quarantine and social distancing recommendations, I recommend that they reach out to the many supports currently being provided due to COVID-19. These resources include for example Abrigo Center, to help each and every individual during this time.