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Ashley Tarasco-Oliver: We’re tired, but we won’t give up


December 16, 2020 - Hospital Family Story, Stories

As a Registered Nurse in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) at Brampton Civic, Ashley Tarasco-Oliver is accustomed to caring for seriously ill patients. “Unfortunately, in the ICU it's always a worst case scenario—for every single patient in the ICU, it is their worst day,” she says. “It motivates me to know that I can help and I will do everything I can to get you over this hurdle.”

When COVID-19 hit, the demands on our hospitals were magnified, and as our region rides the second wave of the pandemic, front line workers like Ashley are once again challenged to meet increased demands caused by the virus—all while undertaking careful measures to keep patients and staff safe and healthy.

“Procedures like an intubation used to be very simple in terms of PPE; you would to go in the room wearing a mask and do the intubation. Now, there's a lot more gear involved to protect ourselves because these procedures are considered high risk,” she explains. “Now, to do an intubation we need a negative pressure room or HEPA filter, we all need to be wearing PPE like gowns and goggles and we all need to be wearing respirators. It's a lot. It definitely makes you more aware of the risks involved in everything we're doing, but at the end of the day, the way I care for my patients has not changed.”


While Ashley’s commitment to exceptional patient care remains steadfast amidst the challenges of the pandemic, she admits that some days are extremely difficult.

“I've been a nurse for 14 years and every nurse will tell you that there are patients and experiences that stick with you—every nurse has a few. And in the past nine months I can tell that any nurse, especially within our ICU, has many stories that have changed us or changed our perception of how things happen. It has been extremely, extremely emotional,” she says. “One of the hardest moments for me was having a Zoom call with a family while their loved one was dying. I had to very quickly get the call going for them and connect all the family members. I stayed in the room with the patient so she wasn't alone and the family prayed and spoke to their mother. And then I just … I let them know when she was gone. In all my years of nursing I would never let anyone pass away alone, so that was something I'll never forget.”

Throughout the pandemic, teams across Osler have come together to support each other. Ashley credits her ICU teammates with helping her through the tough days.

“The main thing that I have gotten out of COVID is how proud I am of the team and the way that we have come together to protect, support, and assist each other. It's very hard for me to go home and explain to my husband what I see at work, because people outside of the ICU will never fully understand the extent of the things that we see and do, but our team is working so well together and we are supporting each other very well,” she says “I think that's what is getting us through; to come out and have a debrief with your team about what's happened has been very helpful.”


She sees support coming from other areas of the hospital as well.

“The patients can be really sick and everyone is really busy but we're all helping each other, from all over the organization. The physiotherapy team has started helping us with our proning and even our social worker checks in, not only with the patients and families, but with us, too. What motivates us is knowing even though they might not be able to physically help us in our unit, they are rooting us on from the sidelines. To see the camaraderie within Osler is something I've never experienced in the 14 years that I've been working here.”

In addition to the support from Osler colleagues, Ashley stresses the impact of community support on keeping spirits high.

“In the first wave, our ICU was hit very hard with COVID and we are seeing that again. And, you know, we're very tired. We're exhausted. But everyone's still showing up, we're still doing our best, and when we get support from the community and we see the thank yous, it really gives us that extra boost to continue on. We're tired, but we're still here,” she says.

Donations from the community have also had a direct impact on Health Care Heroes like Ashley.

“Donors were instrumental in getting us PPE, making sure we were safe so we can continue to do our job. And in terms of equipment, these COVID patients are much sicker and they require a lot more resources. So any assistance that donors give us makes doing our job easier and it makes the outcomes for the patients better because we have access to the equipment that they need.”

With numbers continuing to be high in Osler’s service area, Ashley implores people to follow the protocols in place to keep our communities safe and healthy.

“We know that the community is feeling COVID fatigue. We are too. We feel the exhaustion and we know that everyone is very tired of this and everything that comes along with it. And I want them to know that even within the hospital we are very tired but also, that we won't give up. We’re still showing up every day, we're still putting on all the PPE every day and we will still fight. We just hope that everyone in the community continues to do their part, so we can beat this.”