Erica Goodrich ’16 was a nurse in a hospital’s telemetry unit, where patients are on portable heart monitors 24/7 due to general cardiology issues or complications associated with surgery and other health conditions. Goodrich often filled in for nurses in the intensive care unit, and coincidentally, had asked to transition there full-time a couple months before the COVID-19 pandemic hit.
Though there were no full-time openings in the unit at the time, there certainly were when COVID-19 arrived, so Goodrich made the switch.
“I was very familiar with ICU. However, COVID-19 ICU is a different breed entirely,” Goodrich says. “When I first went to the unit, we had approximately 20 to 30 COVID-19 patients, all on ventilators—every single one of them. To give an idea of how wild that is: On a typical, average ICU day, there are maybe 4 or 5 patients total and half of them are on ventilators. So, the experience is overwhelming, but now that we are a few weeks out, it is becoming routine, which is unfortunate.”
What has been the hardest part about your job during this situation?
--“Accepting that you have no clue how this virus works and why it varies in its effect from person to person.
--Accepting that you have done all you can for this patient, and it is still not enough, which leads to accepting defeat.
--Having to tell families that this virus has very little predictability and, ‘I do not know if your family member is going to survive this.’ So far, as I have been told by our intensivist, once someone has to be put on the ventilator due to COVID-19, the mortality rate is close to 80 to 90 percent.
--Having to somehow normalize what is going on around us, so I do not go completely insane.
--Watching the protests and people being so careless about the virus in other states, as all healthcare professionals bust their butts working to help.”
You are seeing the effects of COVID-19 in a way that most people won’t get to see it. What do you want the average person to know about this virus?
“COVID-19 is not the flu. COVID-19 is not even close to the flu,” Goodrich says. “I know we want normalcy; we want to go back out and participate in life and experiences. Some people just want to go to work or need to work. But let me say this: Nothing is worth death.
“I will say it one more time: NOTHING IS WORTH DEATH. If it is not your death, it could be someone you love or someone you do not even know, but every life is worth protecting. Please keep social distancing, keep quarantining and protecting yourself and your family.”
Has this experience changed you as a nurse and as a person?
“This experience has 100 percent changed me as a nurse and as a person. As a nurse, as awful as this experience is, my skills have heightened in times of desperation, I have been teaching myself at home about ventilators, ICU IV drips, medications, everything I can learn about COVID-19 and hemodynamics.
“As a person, I have been through a roller coaster ride of emotions. I have had days where I am completely okay and tune into my favorite show or video game and other days where I want to completely break down, lay in bed and not get up,” Goodrich says.
“Once the pandemic of COVID-19 is over, whenever that may be, healthcare workers are going to have the second wave of a different type of pandemic entirely: mental health instability and possibly illness. Never in my life did I think I would ever have to worry about mental health instability, but this gets pretty close to it, between the numerous deaths we see and the isolation, it is going to take its toll.”
What’s the best thing you have witnessed at work recently?
“The best thing I have seen at work is the amount of teamwork and support we give each other. We always check on each other, if one of us needs help. We make sure that we are all drinking water—sounds simple but let me tell you while this is going on, extremely easy to forget, we make sure we all have something to eat at some point. We ask each other if the other is okay and if they need a moment. We make each other laugh, so we do not cry as we are in the middle of this,” Goodrich says.
“The community has also been incredible. We have been brought food, hygiene products, masks, headbands with buttons so we can protect our ears, even flowers. I do not know these people but each donation they send has made my day. They have made my experience from an absolute nightmarish one to one where I must keep going, and I must keep fighting.”
“Thank you, William Paterson University, for providing me the necessary tools and education, so I can continue to fight day after day,” Goodrich continues.
“Do not just thank your nurses, but all healthcare professionals of every type, environmental workers, grocery store clerks, delivery workers, truck drivers, and more. They need help, support, love and encouragement, too. We must all unite as a community and fight as a community. Each life is just as important as the next.”
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