5 Frontline Workers Reveal How They Find Calm Amid CoronavirusBy Steve Calechman
For healthcare workers, the COVID-19 pandemic has brought an ever-changing landscape of protocols, safety measures, and personal protective equipment. And, underlying everything, is the uncertainty of how the virus behaves and how long it will last.
We talked to five people on the frontlines from across the U.S. about what they’re facing. They all have their own stressors in and out of work, but they’ve also all found ways to manage and reframe their anxieties in order to keep doing their jobs and providing care for their patients.
Here are their stories.
Kipp Shipley, D.N.P. (Doctor of Nursing Practice), 35, Vanderbilt University Medical Center, Nashville
Shipley is a nurse in the COVID-19 critical care unit. As the days and workload have gone on, what’s hit him most is the loneliness that patients experience because their loved ones can’t be with them. When he asks questions about care, patients will give answers, but he can see their hesitation because they don’t have any support person to consult. “There’s a fear,” he says.
He and his wife, who is also a nurse, have an 8-month-old son, so they’ve had to discuss what caretaking plans would be if they were both to become sick. To help mitigate the exposure risk, Shipley sticks to a routine. Before heading to work, he changes clothes in his garage. Once there, he changes into his hospital uniform and a second pair of shoes. Before he leaves, he showers, gets back into the older clothes, then takes them off in his garage before going into his house.
Shipley credits regular talks with his wife for helping to ease his stress. He also says he speaks with his colleagues now more than ever before, which helps him not compartmentalize. “Mentally, I get rid of things,” he says. When not at work, “it’s easy to get sucked back in,” he says. To create a boundary, he turns his attention to cooking and growing food in his garden, and also to drone photography. “I can do it in the middle of a field by myself,” he says. “It’s complex and tangible, but part of the appeal is that it’s far from consequential.”
Meghan McGrath, M.D., 48, Boston Medical Center, Boston
As an emergency room physician, McGrath is us