Guest Post: Lisa Almos, Catherine Smith, Corina Rochon, UFV Nursing

From campus to frontline: Nurses Week 2020 —

Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus-2 (SARS-CoV-2) — or  “COVID-19” — has caused global disarray. The COVID-19 pandemic is the biggest challenge of the 21st century. The nursing profession plays an active role in all facets of healthcare including supporting public health emergencies such as a pandemic. Corina Rochon, Catherine Smith and I have the opportunity to enact this fundamental duty during this pandemic and we are particularly proud during this Nurses Week to call ourselves nurses!

In addition to our roles as UFV Nursing Faculty, Corina, Catherine and I also work as frontline nurses in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU), where we first met many years ago. Being on the frontline during this pandemic has been one of the most challenging, exhausting and exhilarating experiences of our careers. Feelings of apprehension, uncertainty, and worry from admitting our first COVID-19 positive patient has been replaced with feelings of camaraderie, perseverance and pride.

A couple of weeks into the pandemic, one of the ICU physicians used the word ‘heroes’ to describe the nursing staff as we faced this uncertainty. It is tremendously flattering to be considered heroes on the frontlines; yes, we are courageous and continue put ourselves at risk to care for the critically ill, but this is part of our profession and we are proud to provide care in this most challenging time. Using the words from Dr Bonnie Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix, the public was instructed to “stay home and stay safe.” We were grateful that people  listened and the majority were staying home while we fought this virus on the front lines. Watching the ICU team come together with the #WeGotThis slogan and seeing the outpouring of community support through blue ribbons, donations, discounts, food, letters and pictures has been so uplifting and encouraging.

We will never forget the feeling of walking into the room of a patient who is positive for COVID-19. With the first step into this room we experience many feelings and thoughts; however, the predominant one is fear of the unknown, especially about a virus of which we know so little, which is unsettling. We grapple with the daily changes to our practice and it is overwhelming to try and stay abreast of changes while simultaneously ensuring we give quality patient care.

In the early days of COVID-19, there were many uncertainties surrounding the care of patients and the safety of staff, which continues to evolve on what works and what doesn’t. However, as we continue to care for critically ill patients, we gain knowledge and confidence in our care and practice. We have to trust that the systems and protocols in place will keep us all safe.  As new research and information on COVID-19 emerges, practice evolves rapidly too.  As frontline workers, our practice has to be flexible, adaptable, self-driven and vigilant.

With theory courses transitioning to virtual learning and clinical teaching on pause since mid-March, we felt the need to contribute and support our colleagues in the ICU. As nurses, it is our duty to provide care and thus we embraced our moral obligations to care for the patients during such unprecedented times. We continue to struggle with the idea of potentially bringing this virus home to our families, and some of our ICU colleagues have made the difficult decision to isolate themselves in an effort to protect their loved ones.

For the first time in our nursing career, family members are not allowed in the hospital to visit their loved ones — desperate times require desperate measures. Through technology, creativity and innovation, we have found new ways to engage with the community, patients, families and health care providers. This has brought the staff and units together in ways we have never seen before.

We are honoured to have the responsibility of instilling this level of commitment and unselfishness in our nursing students. Almost immediately, we witnessed UFV Nursing students offer their support through “UFV Student Nurses supporting Nurses” initiative, offering to provide front line nurses with grocery shopping, dog walking, errands, etc. We had nursing students eager to graduate and join the fight on the frontlines. Many eligible nursing students did not hesitate to apply for jobs as employed student nurses during this time of uncertainty. This demonstrates their commitment to nursing and the nursing profession.

These are extraordinary times for everyone. For better and for worse, this pandemic has illuminated the contributions of a nurse and will change the future of nursing.

Happy National Nursing Week!

Corina Rochon, RN, MN, CNCC(C), CCCI – Assistant Professor, Nursing (BSN) Program
Catherine Smith, RN, BSc, MSc – Assistant Professor, Nursing (BSN) Program
Lisa Almos, RN, BSN, MSN, CNCC(c) – Assistant Professor, Nursing (BSN) Program

May 11-17 is National Nursing Week in Canada. The year 2020 has been coined the International Year of the Nurse and Midwife by the World Health Organization.