FRONTLINE

“My boss was in tears in the hallway after telling us this,” she says. “I’ve seen other nurses in their cars crying after shifts. I know this is not what the hospital wants. It’s not what anyone wants. They are not doing it as punishment. It is what it is. We will get through this.”
– Chelsi Falcon

Chelsi Falcon is, by trade, an operating room nurse. Today, she spends more of her time working in one of two COVID-19 designated wings at Our Lady of the Lake hospital in Gonzales.

Falcon urges you to take this pandemic seriously. Even in communities like Gonzales that were not hit like New Orleans, the transition wasn’t easy.

“Stay home,” Falcon says. “People are dying alone in hospitals because their families cannot be let in. If you want that to happen to one of your family members, then don’t take it seriously.”

Fellow nursing alum Binu Basyal works at Terrebonne General Medical Center and at the time of this story, was still working in the cardiac unit. However, that doesn’t mean her life hasn’t changed as undiagnosed and diagnosed COVID-19 patients end up under her care.

“It has been a very difficult time as we have been encountering more and more of COVID-19 patients,” she says. “Not having proper protective equipment has been the biggest challenge in taking care of patients.”

The changes at hospitals are happening fast, as the medical systems were not fully prepared for this outbreak. Falcon says she went through a quick orientation before being switched to the COVID-19 unit. But she emphasizes the switch is almost like a job change in which you’d receive at least two months of training under normal circumstances.

Nurses are receiving limited orientation during a global pandemic, as thousands in the state are dying. But Falcon says there isn’t another choice.

“My boss was in tears in the hallway after telling us this,” she says. “I’ve seen other nurses in their cars crying after shifts. I know this is not what the hospital wants. It’s not what anyone wants. They are not doing it as punishment. It is what it is. We will get through this.”

The hospitals didn’t get ahead of this because the U.S. didn’t act fast enough, Basyal says. And she says she understands why it happened because at first, she also underestimated the virus.

However, she also hopes this is a wake-up call.

Information from www.CDC.gov April 9, 2020

“I think with this pandemic; we have realized how broken our health system is,” she says. “I hope this realization will encourage the leaders and health committee board to work toward the betterment of the whole system.”

The hospitals are doing their best to keep nurses and doctors safe. They are washing their hands more often, and kept quarantined in their wing during shifts. They are being extra careful to wipe everything down. But at the end of the day, they are being exposed to it. Our Lady of the Lake has been fortunate to have enough equipment to go around, but in many hospitals nurses are reusing masks, goggles and gowns.

“All you can do is be vigilant,” Falcon says. “We cannot social distance in healthcare. Everyone has a lot of anxiety and fear about our safety, and our patients’ safety.”

Both nurses recommend following guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to protect yourself and limit the spread of the virus.

Basyal and Falcon say they lean on the training they received in the Nicholls nursing program.

“Like at Nicholls, the unit I work with has a strong sense of family,” Falcon says. “In clinicals, that’s what we did. No one slept as they worked on their care plans. Everyone was on the verge of a mental breakdown, but we had our family there going through it to pick us up. We all made it. I hope that applies to this situation.”

Even when not in a time of global pandemic, nursing is a tough but rewarding profession. If you are a student considering it, Basyal says to make sure your heart is in the right place.

“Be prepared to serve the community at its best and its worst times,” she says. “However, It is a blessing to be able to take care of the people when they need us the most.”

“Be prepared to serve the community at its best and its worst time." – Binu Basyal, RN

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