Olivia Berg/Staff Writer
Heroes don’t wear capes, they wear scrubs. Nurses have faced many challenges and changes this year due to the widespread pandemic of Covid-19.
Kurstin Svoboda, the Director of Emergency Services at Matsu Regional Medical Center in Palmer, Alaska has been a nurse for 32 years. Svoboda said she has seen many changes in her job throughout the last year.
One of the changes that Svoboda has faced is the change in how many hours her and her team have had to work.
“For the first two thirds of 2020 I probably worked an extra 15-20 hours a week and felt like there was no downtime,” said Svoboda. “My department staff also has had to adjust schedules, take on/call shifts etc in order to meet the potential surges.”
Sarah Martin, a registered nurse of three and a half years, currently works for Capstone Clinic doing Covid-19 tests at the Ketchikan International Airport.
Martin said that she has had to adapt to many different changes within this past year that she believes will not be going away anytime in the near future.
“We are constantly having to rethink new safety protocols depending on our work environment,” said Martin. “At times, there have been shortages in PPE and other supplies, bringing increased need for resourcefulness while still adhering to evidence-based care guidelines.”
Martin said that Covid-19 has created many new opportunities for the nursing field including specialty roles and jobs that would normally pay $2,000/week for working 36 hours/week have gone up to $4,000/week to include crisis pay.
“There is an increased need for Infection Prevention RN’s, swabbers/vaccinators, and Covid-19 crisis unit RN’s.” said Martin “I have had many opportunities come up for travel nursing where I would be able to learn Intensive Care (ICU) skills at a faster pace than what would be typical, prior to the pandemic. Numerous recruiters have been highly motivated to bring on travel nurses, and I have seen rates increasing substantially.”
Nurses like Svoboda and Martin are also seeing changes in patient care.
Svoboda said that as Covid-19 cases in hospitals rise, regular patients decrease.
“Usual patients are not coming in, either from fear that hospitals are dangerous, which they are not or because of lost jobs or insurance. This is concerning because when they do finally come in they are much more ill,” said Svoboda “For example, we have seen a rise in Cardiac and stroke patients who have delayed treatments for various reasons.”
Martin explains how the compassionate care of nursing has diminished due to Covid-19.
“When working in Covid-19 response/testing centers, there is no time to develop connections with the patients as we normally do,” said Martin “The environment becomes more fast-paced which often feels as though the element of compassionate care is lacking.”