Photo Essay: NCH Doctors & Nurses Reflect on Profession During Pandemic
Each year, hospitals and facilities across the country celebrate nurses and healthcare staff during the month of May. Photographer Lisette Morales visited NCH North Naples Hospital to photograph staff on the front lines of the coronavirus, where NCH medical professionals reflect on their profession – and mental state – during a pandemic.
"As critical care physicians and intensivists, we work 7 days in a row in the same ICU to optimize continuity and team dynamics, putting the patient first," said Dr. Douglas Harrington. "The average [I work] a week is 80 to 90 hours."
He says that at the end of each day, he takes time to reflect on what occurred that day, and what tomorrow may bring.
"The time to truly relax is when your 7-day schedule is completed, and I do try to relax each night when home in my garden and with my family. However, you never can completely turn off the switch when you work seven days in a row," said Harrington.
Pediatric Nurse Gail Collins says that she is relieved that the pandemic hasn’t affected Southwest Florida as much as she had originally anticipated, but she remains apprehensive as to what will happen in the coming months. She works three twelve-hour shifts per week.
"I arrive at 6:30 AM, take reports, and then work with my 2-3 Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) babies for the remainder of my shift."
Collins says NICU nurses help one another with admissions and more complicated or demanding assignments. "I like to go for long walks on days I don’t work and this provides time for reflection and relaxation."
Kitty Koshko, NCH Respiratory Therapist, says her schedule changes each week.
"It’s what works for me," said Koshko. She says she treats every day as a day of reflection and a day of hope. "[I] embrace the challenges of the day and hope to make a difference," said Koshko.
Doctor Harrington says with the support of the staff and administration, and all following the PPE guidelines, he feels safe working at NCH during this outbreak of coronavirus.
"As critical care physicians, we are trained and work in an environment of high pressure, fast-paced, difficult decisions, attention to detail, and teamwork," said Harrington.
"I feel safe [at work] as we have good support and adequate PPE and supplies currently," said Gail Collins. "We receive updates via conference calls three days per week."
Collins says the conference calls inform staff about how NCH is responding to COVID-19 challenges.
Kitty Koshko says she feels "absolutely" safe while working at NCH right now, but the community at large is what has exceeded her expectations.
"I would’ve been lost without them," said Koshko. "I really appreciated the generosity and donations that I could've never expected."
"The community support has been phenomenal, especially some of the local restaurants providing meals to the hospital staff and stores providing necessary home supplies to hospital employees," said Harrington.
"I have never felt so appreciated!" said Gail Collins. "The community has provided many meals, gift cards, and other tokens of appreciation, and friends and neighbors are supportive of health care professionals."
As far as handling a pandemic in the future, these health professionals offer a bit of advice.
"You have to stay focused, engaged, and informed," said Dr. Harrington. "Listen to the guidelines. Become involved and support some aspects of the response. In the future, we need to have learned from the present pandemic and be better prepared, hopefully, less reactionary and have all aspects of the response teams work together."
"Be open-minded and embrace the challenge, but be smart," said Kitty Koshko.
"Listen to the experts, ignore unreliable sources, believe in science, and be patient," said Gail Collins. "Never underestimate the power of kind words and gestures."