Photo Credit: Courtesy of Natasha Gonzales
Melanin On The Front Lines: 'I'm Working In The COVID ICU Unit'
No one sees the true reality of COVID-19 like the brave men and women in healthcare who risk their lives daily to help others. Natasha Gonzales, a registered nurse of 4 years, has been on the frontlines of this pandemic while working in ICU units across the country as a travel nurse.
Her previous assignment was in a smaller hospital in Los Angeles from November through March. She recalls how, at the beginning of that assignment, there wasn’t a name for the virus yet. However, there was an increase in classified flu and tuberculosis patients, and it eventually switched over to COVID-19 once medical experts got more information.
She is now back in her home state of North Carolina working in a COVID-19 ICU unit. We spoke with Natasha to learn what it’s like working in the middle of such an unprecedented pandemic.
“Since this started, our policies have changed every day,” Natasha told Travel Noire. “Before this, we operated on policies that had been in place for years when it came to how we use PPE and treating patients with infectious diseases.”
Before COVID-19, there was no need for nurses or hospital staff, in general, to worry about running out of PPE and they could easily adhere to the rule to protect your patient and protect yourself. Now, many are being forced to implement a recycle and reuse policy on PPE.
“The thought of this brings some anxiety because I am now worried about if I will be protected or not.”
People in the communities are stepping in and doing what they can to make those in healthcare feel appreciated. Natasha has seen neighborhoods host parades to salute them as they go into their shift as well as people providing free lunch. While these things are grand gestures, they don’t necessarily address the trauma and anxiety that many are feeling.
Healthcare workers are often afraid to go home out of fear that they may infect those they love. When times get tough, Natasha falls back on the reason she became a nurse in the first place.
“I constantly have to remind myself what my passion is,” Natasha said. “I got into this field because of the passion I have for people and the impact I have in helping them in their most vulnerable times. Working in the ICU, I naturally deal with high-stress situations and helping to ease my patients as well as their family’s emotions. I’ve seen people die, but I’ve also seen plenty of people pull through this and that’s rewarding and humbling.”
One of the tougher parts for Natasha right now is the fact that family members can’t be by their loved one’s sides during this time. They have to leave them and hope that the next time they see them, it will be once they recovered.
We asked Natasha to offer advice to fellow healthcare workers working through all of this, here’s what she said.
“Your peace of mind is important right now. If we don’t self-care and self-help, we can’t help others. You can’t give from an empty cup. Take time away when you can and pour into yourself. Also, make sure you have a great support system to help pour into you too.”