Washington, UNITED STATES
Essential workers portrait series
Registered nurse Annie Rigelhaupt (L), clinical nurse Zoe Bendixen (C) and registered nurse Melody Jones in Washington.
Annie Rigelhaupt: "Going into work, I actually feel an overwhelming sense of guilt and confusion these days. I'm 18 weeks pregnant so I'm a nurse that is considered exempt from working on COVID units. That places me instead on the 'clean ICU' with other pregnant and many immunocompromised nurses. However I still pass through my home unit ICU to access my locker, clock in and clock out, which is a COVID ICU. There, I get a glimpse of the exhaustion and desperation of my old team and coworkers. It makes me feel helpless and extremely guilty that I get to continue my work life, job duties and pay in much the same way it was pre-coronavirus. It feels extremely unfair. I see the physical, emotional, mental and spiritual toll this virus is taking on my coworkers. I see how their workload has doubled, even tripled, not to mention the risks and loss they are exposed to. Equally, I feel frustrated and confused, as even on the 'clean unit' us pregnant and immunocompromised nurses are still working side by side with transporters, doctors, respiratory therapists, patient care techs and others nurses that are moving between COVID and non-COVID units. As you may imagine, cleaning, turning, restraining, intubating, coding patients, etc does not allow for any distancing. So in many ways it feels to me that I could and should be more help to my team on a COVID unit simply because I am barely protected where I'm currently working, and don't even know my status (as the hospital does not offer testing) or even if I've already been exposed if I have immunity. My doctor however does not advise me to work outside of the clean unit, which makes me feel helpless."
Zoe Bendixen: "I feel apprehensive going into work, about whether I'll have the equipment and PPE necessary to do my job, about the potential bad outcomes for the pregnant people and newborns I take care of, about people not following stay at home, distancing guidelines."
Melody Jones: "These days, going into work you have mixed feelings, you know you have to do what you've been trained and educated to do as a nurse, but yet it's scary because of lack of PPE in some hospitals, risk of being exposed to coronavirus, wondering if you will contract it and expose friends and family. I say a prayer every day before work and hope I am protected and can continue to help our patients."