Reflections on COVID-19: A Nurse's Perspective

Karianne Weber ‘21, a current student in the Postbaccalaureate Premedical Program, reflects on her current experience working as a nurse caring for patients with COVID-19 and shares how she and her colleagues have gotten creative with delivering care to their patients while reducing their risk of exposure. 

Postbac Premed student Karianne Weber with a co-worker.

“Working in healthcare requires a remarkable amount of flexibility. Each day is unpredictable and in some ways that is part of the appeal. This routine unpredictability has been infinitely magnified by a global pandemic. In many ways COVID-19 has not changed what I do as a nurse and at the same time it has changed everything. COVID-19 has forced us to change our daily routines and no longer allows us to care for our patients in the same ways we have in the past.

To reduce our risk of exposure, we prepare ourselves outside of patient rooms, bundle care when possible, and are required to limit the amount of time spent in a patient’s room. A lot of planning is required before we enter a room and a buddy is always present to observe and assist us as we don (put on) and doff (take off) our personal protective equipment to help lower our chances of infecting ourselves with this highly contagious disease.   

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COVID is a very isolating disease. Nurses are often the only personal contact these patients have for weeks. Wearing two masks and a face shield complicates communication. These layers of required protection make it difficult to form meaningful connections with our patients and has forced us to become creative in how we deliver care. In addition to limiting our direct patient care time, visitors are also restricted. Families have been forced to communicate with their loved ones through iPads and Zoom. 

While this has been a very trying time in the world, I am proud to say that I have seen this pandemic bring out the best in my co-workers and our communities. Nurses are being floated to critical care units to assist with the unusually high volume of critically ill patients. Other hospital staff have been reassigned to responsibilities that are not typical of their jobs and everyone has adapted without complaint. COVID had forced separate units to work together and in doing so has created a more cohesive hospital environment.  And the overwhelming support and gratitude coming from our communities and patients and their families means so much to us. 

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I am incredibly lucky to be able to do what I do. Working in healthcare is a privilege and I am grateful for the opportunity to directly care for patients, particularly during this time. Now more than ever I am appreciative for the opportunity Columbia has given me to pursue a path to medical school in an attempt to learn as much as I can to provide my patients with the highest quality care possible.”