ICU nurse speaks out about the stressful, exhausting work taking care of COVID-19 patients

Missy McNabb, family nurse practitioner with the St. Francis Medical Group, said, through her...
Missy McNabb, family nurse practitioner with the St. Francis Medical Group, said, through her 20-year career, she's never been challenged like she has working through the COVID-19 pandemic. Source: (KNOE)(KNOE)
Published: Apr. 5, 2020 at 12:57 PM CDT
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In the midst of the COVID-19 crisis, nurses are on the front lines.

“It’s extremely stressful because they are super sick,” an ICU nurse said.

The Tulane Medical Center ICU nurse, who does not want to be identified, says it’s the hardest thing she’s ever had to do.

“These patients are sicker than sick. I mean, we run anywhere from two to ten drips a day. We paralyze them. We flip them on their bellies to help them get more air exchange in their lungs,” the nurse said.

She says the COVID-19 patients in ICU need almost constant attention and because there are so many patients, nurses are expected to take care of at least two of them a shift.

“We’re not even really protected because we’re issued one gown and one mask for our entire 10 hours shift,” the nurse said.

The nurse says while they try to limit the number of times they go into a patient’s room, they must tend to them more than once an hour.

“So you’re exposing yourself in a way of like you’ve dressed up. You’ve gone into the room and then you’re having to take it off in a way of trying not to cross-contaminate everything else that you’ve done because the outside of everything is filthy dirty,” the nurse said.

She worries about the safety of herself and her family.

“I mean people have been coughed on and sprayed in the face by ventilator circuits. Along with that, we are not being compensated for the hazard pay of putting our lives on the line that could possibly contract this horrible disease that could kill us or bring it home to a family member, which could kill them too. I mean, we’ve already had a nurse admitted to the ICU that I work alongside with,” the nurse said.

She says often nurses break down in tears.

“All of us do. We are just so spent. I mean it’s horrible. It’s horrible. I come home, and I cry every single day,” the nurse said.

The nurse says COVID-19 patients can take a turn very quickly.

“I mean patients are just coding. They flip so fast. It’s not like, well they are a little stable. It’s like they go from stable to coding in five minutes. Deaths and coding have us exhausted. We are literally exhausted. Every bone in our bodies hurt. Our minds hurt. Our hearts hurt,” the nurse said.

End of life situations happen every day and nurses have to substitute as family members for dying patients.

“We’ve had 27 to 98-year-olds. I mean they’re on ventilators. They are fighting for their lives and they’re alone. There are no visitors allowed. They are alone. The only human contact they have are us, and we’re trying to minimize the amount of exposure we’re having to go into the room, to gown up, to dress up, going in there so they’re literally alone,” the nurse said.

Despite the dire conditions, this nurse says they are getting through it leaning on each other.

“That is our pact, that we won’t let them die on our shift, and we fight till the end. It’s just hard and it’s taxing and it’s emotionally nothing I’ve ever been through before,” the nurse said.

You’re whole heart is in this, right?” Fox 8 reporter Natasha Robin responded.

“Absolutely. It’s what I was born to do. I couldn’t see myself being anything else but a nurse,” the nurse said.

Tulane Medical Center released the following statement below:

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