Voices from the front lines
“Voices from the front lines” is a new series featuring stories from employees in many different roles about what it’s like to work in health care during COVID-19. Stories will be posted and updated on the Yale New Haven Health employee intranet; some will appear in employee newsletters. In honor of upcoming Nurses Week, May 6 - 12, this issue highlights stories from some of Yale New Haven Hospital’s nurses. Check the YNHHS employee intranet for more.
“I get through with the tremendous support and help from my coworkers”
- Susan Falbo-MacConnie, RN, SLA 2
Years as a nurse: 32
“Friday, March 27, started out as a normal day on our busy med-surg unit. My manager, Darcy (Hennessey) called me into her office and said, ‘we are becoming a COVID unit.’ It was a shock to hear these words, but not totally unexpected.
At the moment we have good staffing levels and adequate amounts of PPE; however, information is coming fast and furious at us and every day is so different. Everything is changing so quickly.
After my first full, 12-hour shift as a COVID nurse, I’m not going to lie – I came home and told my husband I didn’t think I could do this. But after I took a shower that night I felt a lot better and was ready to work another shift and take care of these patients, who are scared and quite sick.
I get through with the tremendous support and help from my coworkers. They are an amazing group of nurses, techs and unit clerks, and no way could I work in these incredibly stressful conditions without them. And there’s the support from my husband and my family and friends.
My heart breaks for the patients who are not able to have visitors while they are sick – not just those at YNHH, but at all healthcare facilities, especially those in long-term care. I do know that hospital staff are doing everything possible to bring care and comfort to the patients.
It’s really hard, but I’m trying to stay calm and organized at work. It’s so important to keep a positive attitude during this crisis. I really look forward to my day off and use that time to take long walks outside while listening to music. I drink a lot of water and I have incredible faith and pray a lot. I spend my days off disinfecting my house and I have taken up residence in my guest room at home.
I know my parents are beyond worried about me. My husband knows that I’m tough and can handle this, but of course he worries.
I haven’t experienced this kind of dynamic at other points in my career. I was working at Saint Raphael’s on 9/11 and I vaguely remember that the hospital was gearing up to possibly take victims, but that never happened.
I want to thank everyone who has delivered food to our unit and sent us thoughts and prayers and encouragement – it means more than you can ever imagine!”
“This is what we do and we’re doing it”
- Charles Crocco, RN, Adult Emergency Department
Years as a nurse: 1.5
“Everyone in the ED has the same attitude. Nobody has said ‘I don’t want to be here.’ The motivation and work ethic of ED staff were already high, and this pandemic hasn’t changed that. We’ve always had great teamwork, and it’s even better now. This is our calling. This what we do and we’re doing it.
There is a sense of foreboding, that we’re all probably going to get sick with this, but we are all being more careful to make sure we’re protecting ourselves, our coworkers and our families.
I’m also concerned about staff burnout. It’s mentally exhausting to have to take care of so many very sick patients all the time. And every day things change. At first we were only worried about whether patients had recently traveled to China. Now anyone who comes in might have it. And it presents so differently for every person – it makes it so hard to pin down. We never imagined that we’d be dealing with such a prolonged disaster. The uncertainly by itself is a major challenge. We’re working so hard and we’re going to need a break when this is over.
The restrictions on visitors and family members is tough. People are generally really understanding, but there are times when it’s hard, especially when you have a non- COVID patient with a poor prognosis. Having to help families deal with their grief alone in the middle of this is hard.
Another thing is that we are taking on new roles in a hurry. I’ve been put in decision-making roles I’ve never had before. I had been trained on how to triage right before this happened. Now I’m taking on more responsibilities. It’s humbling. I am constantly thinking about how my decisions might affect my coworkers and the patient outcomes. It’s going to be a challenge going back to the way things used to work.
What motivates me? I know that I’ve been given every opportunity to have the skillset and abilities that I do. These skills are what’s needed and necessary right now. There are patients who desperately need us. I always remember a quote that said, if you have the ability to respond then you also have the responsibility to respond. That’s what I try to do.”