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Nursing is not a One-Person Job


May 12, 2020 - Hospital Family Story, Stories

Farhana Rahman has been a Registered Nurse for almost a decade, but the COVID-19 pandemic is presenting challenges she’s never seen in her career. “This has taken nursing in a different direction. We are challenged to do things we were never asked to do before,” says Farhana, who works in the Critical Care Unit at Etobicoke General Hospital. “There have been so many things that are new—every day is a learning opportunity and every patient is different and sometimes it's just overwhelming.”

Farhana says physically demanding tasks like proning and supinating—turning a patient from their stomach onto their back—are performed several times a day. Combined with the emotional and mentally draining work of managing the unpredictable disease caused by the Novel Coronavirus, her days since the pandemic struck can be heavy and exhausting.

“The majority of our patients are extremely, extremely sick and it’s difficult,” she says. “You can be trying to wean them off the ventilator, then they’re going into multi-organ failure so we're starting them on dialysis—you're not only dealing with one thing. It's like you're trying your best to help, but sometimes it gets nowhere and that becomes very frustrating.”

Despite the best efforts of the Critical Care team, some patients don’t recover and the deaths take a toll.

“We had a fairly young patient who was on the ventilator for a couple weeks. He got off the ventilator and we all thought he was going to go home. We were so happy,” she says. “Our entire unit was devastated by his death—we were just heartbroken. His passing took a piece of us.”

To get through these tough times, Farhana says the team faces every day with a focus on the successful cases and a determination that today can be different.

“We have a board in every room and at the beginning of our day, we add our names and we write the goals for that day. And even if you don't achieve your goal that day, knowing that this patient has a chance, that's what makes you go through the day,” she says. “You're trying to get them through another day and then maybe tomorrow will be better—hope is what's getting us through this.”

As the Critical Care team faces the pandemic together, day after day, bonds are strengthened.

“The way the unit has come together as a group is … I cannot describe it to you,” she says, “Even though this is the most challenging time of my entire nursing career, and there have been days when things were not smooth, the way these nurses are coming up with innovative ideas on how we can do things better, or how we can help each other get through it, or support one another—it's just been phenomenal. Nursing has never been a one-person job. I can't say enough about the physicians, the nurses, our social worker, our physiotherapists, our dietician.

“This is a time where you could have just kind of lost it, but I feel like we have stepped up and just said: We're going to do this together.”

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