Musings about Working in Personal Care while in the Red Zone
The following is an honest, yet raw account from an anonymous Moravian Manor Communities’ team member, highlighting what it’s been like working as a front-line employee in a COVID-19 Red Zone.
Your life at work is now more emotionally, mentally, and physically draining than it’s ever been. As you enter the building, sanitize your hands. Screen in and get your temp checked. Sanitize your hands. Clock in. Sanitize your hands.
You arrive on your unit. Sanitize your hands. Label and put on your N95. Sanitize your hands. Clean and put on your goggles. Sanitize your hands. Put on the gown.
Within five minutes you are drenched with sweat. You will remain wet for the next 8 to 9 hours. Perspiration runs down your face, but you can’t wipe it away. It runs in your ears and in your eyes. Your underwear is saturated.
On the first day, I didn’t label my mask before putting it on. A co-worker writes my name on for me. She misspells it. I tell her to let it that way. We need something to laugh at.
What to do if you have an itch, or need to blow your nose? It’s a ten-minute process just to remove the mask and put it back on again. Well, while it’s off, might as well get a drink too. Stay hydrated. If you’ve been trying to lose weight, you may lose it now…in water weight. Except you’ve been given chocolate to keep your spirits up. Might as well eat a couple pieces while your mask is off. Wash your hands. Then you go to put your mask back on and the elastic snaps and breaks. What?! You hold it in place to go get another one to replace it. Wash your hands.
Ugh! A resident has pulled the air circulation vent from the window and it’s now blowing on the living room chair instead of out the window.
So many co-workers on other units feel for you. They know it could have just as well happened on their unit. They take the time to write messages letting you know they are thinking of you. So sweet and appreciated!
You are told how beautiful you are. The gown is lovely. Please don’t touch the gown. Wash your hands.
The bridge of your nose is red and sore from the N95. Do pressure sores on employees get reported to the state? A skin condition flares up from the warm, moist environment. You get a corneal ulcer, and then another one, from sweat running in your eyes. A day after having a cracked tooth fixed, you read a news article on dentists fixing a record number of cracked teeth attributed to pandemic stress.
Residents that understand the seriousness worry they will get it and die. They worry for the ones that tested positive. They want it all just to end.
Some residents have no idea what is going on. They just know they can’t see their spouse, or their children. They hate it and just want to go home. They’re getting out of here. Yeah, I want to go home too.
Fortunately, the two residents that tested positive for the virus were asymptomatic. How can they have the virus? There’s no fever. Wash your hands. When will their symptoms start? Check their vitals every shift. Wash your hands. Oxygen levels are at 97 and 98%. So confusing. Wash your hands. Check everyone’s temps every shift. Wash your hands.
We are being “so mean.” They don’t want to stay in their rooms. Wash your hands. Their mask immediately comes off. Wash your hands. They don’t know they have tested positive for a virus that has already killed many people all over the world.
Your shift ends and you do get to go home. Wash your hands.
Ahhh! Strip off the drenched uniform. Get in the shower. Wash it all away. My daughter notices the red line across my forehead from the goggles and the marks from the mask. I assure her they will be gone by morning. Get a good night’s sleep. Tomorrow, you get to do it all over again.
Moravian Manor Communities is ever grateful for our dedicated team during these trials and tribulations. It’s their level of commitment that makes our community a leading health care provider in the Lancaster area.