For countless individuals, the thought of losing a loved one is a terrifying nightmare. Since the COVID-19 pandemic was declared in March by the World Health Organization, this fear has become a reality for many families both locally and internationally. Health care workers have been working throughout the pandemic to help patients and their community get through these unprecedented times.
Alex Palma is a registered nurse in the emergency room at Kaiser Permanente Hospital. With a work schedule from 3 p.m. to midnight, he is doing all he can to help keep the members of his community safe.
“When COVID-19 initially exploded, the stress and anxiety among department staff were extremely high,” said Palma. “We were uncertain about all the risks that we were potentially facing.”
Before the pandemic, the medical workers in the emergency room would have between 50 to 60 patients in their 48-bed department and see about 200 patients a day. The COVID-19 outbreak has now reduced the numbers by around 20 percent.
Kaiser Permanente has also implemented stricter restrictions on who can be in and out of the hospital. All incoming patients must be screened for COVID-19 symptoms such as fever, cough, or shortness of breath. Additionally, visitors are not allowed to accompany patients to reduce the chance of contracting or spreading the coronavirus.
An infected person can spread COVID-19 starting 48 hours before showing symptoms. As a health care worker working in such close proximity with patients, Palma’s biggest fear is contracting the coronavirus and spreading it to his family.
“My wife also works in an emergency room in the Bay Area, so we both worry about getting our kids, parents, or other family members sick as well,” he said.
Castro Valley resident Kelly Crocker shares this same fear. As a registered nurse at Alta Bates Summit Medical Center, Crocker has noticed high levels of changes in the overall dynamic of the hospital.
“Patients used to stay two to four days after delivering a baby. Now most of them are discharging from the hospital as soon as they can, sometimes before 24 hours have passed since delivery,” said Crocker.
Beyond being a registered nurse, Crocker is also a nursing teacher at Samuel Merritt University. As many schools in California have gone online, nursing students are working with virtual simulations and online labs. Currently, not all clinical rotations are back at the hospitals and many patients are declining to have student nurses in their rooms.
Despite the struggles of working through these unprecedented times, health care professionals are still doing all they can to support their patients, coworkers, and families.
“We all still love each other, our patients, and what we do,” said Crocker. “Nursing is such a special profession and we genuinely want to see our patients and their families stay healthy and get well.”
The COVID-19 pandemic has caused worldwide panic and stress. Coronavirus cases are continuing to rise in the U.S., as the race to find a vaccine continues. Health care workers have been risking their lives from the very beginning, and since then, over 900 health care workers have died from COVID-19. Nevertheless, health care workers and community members alike are doing their part to keep those around them safe.
“Stay strong, we are a wonderful community of families and good hearts. We will get through this,” said Crocker.