Interview Four: Mary Johnson
The fourth and final interview I conducted was done with a member of my fire department, Mary Johnson. Mary currently is an emergency room nurse at a hospital only about 20 minutes outside of NYC. This interview was done to get a better insight into how Covid had affected the mental health of an ER nurse who was risking her own health and safety when dealing with Covid daily.
Christian: Hi Mary, thank you for meeting with me today!
Mary: No problem, it’s the least I can do for a probie(probie is the term for a probationary member of the fire department, which I, Christian, happen to be)
C: So, considering you work in a hospital in which you can come in contact with dozens of sick people a day, what was your initial reaction to hearing that Covid was in an area near you?
M:We were one of the first hospitals to see covid and suspected covid patients, so there was a lot of confusion about how to treat and care for those patients. There was also a lot of anxiety about what to expect and how to handle the influx of large volumes of patients we were seeing with limited resources, minimal knowledge, and limited space.
C:Now, assuming you took care of Covid positive patients, did you ever fear that you would contract the virus as well?
M:I was less worried about getting it myself and more concerned that I would transmit it to my family
C: Fair enough, now, how did the inability to purchase masks, gowns, and latex gloves affect the way in which you do your job? Were there ever days that you had little to no protection from the virus?
M:We were limited on resources but never without any. The hospital recognized a possible problem early and began limiting how many N95 masks were handed out daily to ensure our supply would not run out. We were fortunate enough that the worst we had to deal with was reusing N95 masks for two weeks at a time *or until they were contaminated too much to wear*, which was gross on it’s own but it was better than not having masks at all.
C:How easy or difficult was it for you to follow new procedures that were put in place for hospitals, especially the one you work in particular?
M:The main policies we saw change in the emergency department were the lack of visitors — which both made it easier and harder to do our jobs depending on the situation, and the amount of PPE we were wearing on a daily basis. There were smaller policies and procedures changing constantly which was confusing, but our management team kept us informed as best as possible with daily emails for all updates, allowing staff to remain up to date on the latest even if we didn’t work that day, allowing us to be prepared for our next shift.
C:Did working in the ER during this time take a toll on you both physically and mentally? If so in what ways? Was there any numbness to emotions?
M:The emotional side hit our staff, myself included, more than the physical aspect. Only a few of my coworkers got sick, and those who did made full recoveries. The emotional aspect was unmatched as people were dying with no family allowed to see or be with them, we didn’t know how to treat this virus, and not knowing when things would get better lead to a great deal of anxiety and depression for many. Especially with everything closed and no way to relax after shift.
C:Did you ever contract Covid while working with people who were positive? If so, how did this affect your ability to work? What toll did Covid take on you and have you recovered?
M:I never got sick, as far as I know I was never positive — but I was never tested as I was never symptomatic.
C:Well considering that you were probably the most exposed person I know, I am very glad to hear that you did not catch the virus. But anyway, that is all I have for you today, thank you again!
M:No problem! Again it’s the least I could do.