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Photo: Nurse.org Staff

A nurse, dressed in full PPE, takes someone’s temperature.

Essential Workers of Pontotoc County: Nurses

As the daughter of a nurse, I have heard a lot about the pandemic. My mom is often my source for everything new happening with COVID-19. She also talks about how overwhelming it is to be a nurse in these times. Doctors often get all the credit for hospitals running smoothly, but nurses have also been an essential part of keeping things going during coronavirus.

Since the pandemic started becoming a significant concern, healthcare workers have had to be extra cautious to keep themselves and others safe, nurses especially. “When taking care of patients, I have PPE, but when I get home, I change in the laundry room before I interact with my family,” Christy Bailey said. Bailey is a Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) at an inpatient psychiatric facility. Katie Weaver, a Registered Nurse (RN) at the Chickasaw Nation Medical Center, says that she does not go into public to keep people safe unless necessary. 

Not only do nurses have to deal with changes in their personal lives, but they also have to deal with changes in their workplaces. Alayna McGee, an RN at Mercy Hospital Ada, gave some input on the changes they have made to keep patients and staff safe. “The hospital doesn’t allow visitors anymore,” McGee said. “We now have PPE to help protect us as well. Now the vaccine is being offered as well. Also, they’ve been encouraging hand washing.” Bee Rae, a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) at Mercy Hospital Ada, also stated that they have separated floors between COVID-19 positive patients and those who are not infected. According to Weaver, the Chickasaw Nation Medical Center also does not allow patients to have visitors. “As far as employees, we are screened daily,” Weaver said. “We are randomly swabbed.” 

Many nurses have stated that with the pandemic, they’ve become extra stressed. My mother is a full-time RN and online student, and she often talks about how difficult it is to work and go to school in a pandemic. “The pandemic has taken such a toll on my mental health,” Rae says. “Watching someone new die every day is something that you just can’t get used to. I do feel a major level of burnout because the emotional damage is overwhelming.” Weaver also had a similar response. She said her mental health has been affected drastically, and she now takes anxiety medicine and goes to counseling to help with coping.

I do feel a major level of burnout because the emotional damage is overwhelming.”

— Bee Rae

“I think that for the most part, people have done well,” Rae said. “But you can tell some people don’t think covid is real, or they think it’s just the flu.” Most nurses I talked to seem to have similar responses to how the public responds to the pandemic. McGee said she thinks the general public has acted immaturely. “I think it’s selfish not to wear a mask in public… I don’t think it’s a big favor to ask, especially for a short time,” McGee said. 

As we all know, more and more people are getting vaccinated globally. The nurses I spoke to had varying thoughts on the vaccine. Some are happy it’s available, some are a little bit scared of it, and some feel a little bit of both.“I’m 50/50 on the vaccine,” Weaver said. “I think it is scary because it is new, and we don’t know the long term effects of it, but I think that people with weakened immune systems and underlying issues don’t really have a choice and need to get it.” Bailey is one of the nurses who are grateful for the vaccine. She feels as if it was an answered prayer.

If there is anything these nurses want the people of Ada to know, it’s that the virus is real and is killing people. Continue to wear your mask, wash your hands, and social distance whenever possible to keep our community and healthcare workers safe!

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