Nurses at the Cowichan District Hospital are thanking the community for following the health protocols during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Pictured from left are nurses Jacqueline Kendall, Melissa Bustard and Heidi Ferris. (Robert Barron/Citizen)

Nurses at the Cowichan District Hospital are thanking the community for following the health protocols during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Pictured from left are nurses Jacqueline Kendall, Melissa Bustard and Heidi Ferris. (Robert Barron/Citizen)

Still in this together: Island nurses finally see light coming after a year like no other

May 10-16 is National Nursing Week, giving pause to reflect on the pressures of a pandemic

Heidi Ferris lived downstairs in her family home alone for a month when the COVID-19 pandemic began last year.

Ferris, an emergency nurse at Cowichan District Hospital with 12 years working in her field, said she was concerned she would bring the virus home to her husband and two children, aged nine and 10.

“I used to strip out of my clothes immediately when I got home from work, even though we wore protective uniforms while at the hospital,” she said.

“I would just wave at my family from the bottom of the stairs and cook on a hot plate. Fortunately, we have learned a lot more about COVID-19 since then and I’m living with my family again in my house, but it was a very difficult time.”

Similar stories are being shared by nurses across the country as National Nursing Week, May 10-16, is wrapping up acrosse Canada after a full year of the pandemic.

RELATED STORY: FUTURE NURSES, DOCTORS WANT LESSONS FROM PANDEMIC TO CREATE BETTER HEALTH-CARE SYSTEM

Jacqueline Kendall, another nurse at CDH who has 14 years of experience in her profession, said the past year had her, and many colleagues, stretched to the limit both in their professional and personal lives.

She said she shares a farm with her parents and young daughter and she was also terrified in the early days of the pandemic that she would bring the virus home from work.

“My mother has asthma and other health conditions, and that added to the extra stress we were feeling at work in the early days of COVID-19,” Kendall said.

Melissa Bustard, an emergency room nurse and coordinator of site operations at CDH, said she and her husband began sleeping in separate bedrooms and had devised back-up plans for any worst-case scenarios during the pandemic, like her moving to a hotel if necessary to protect her family. The nurses said the stress at the hospital when the pandemic began was bad enough, without also having to worry about the impacts on their families.

“The hospital’s staff were in a constant state of urgency waiting for a major influx of patients at any given time that hasn’t yet happened, other than a small surge in January,” Ferris said.

“We’d like to thank the community for dong their part, following the health protocols and staying at home, which kept the number of cases at the hospital way down compared to other areas.”

Bustard said another problem nurses and hospital staff across the province, and elsewhere, have been facing since the pandemic began is people coming to the hospitals and claiming the pandemic is not real.

RELATED STORY: B.C. NURSES ISSUE PLEA FOR ALL TO FOLLOW HEALTH ORDERS AS HOSPITALIZATIONS SPIKE

She said the pandemic deniers claimed that the hospital staff were “sheep following lies”.

“I saw this at the West Shore Urgent Primary Care Unit in Langford when I was working there, and I’ve seen it at the CDH as well,” Bustard said.

“Security had to be called sometimes. Then there are those who refuse to wear masks or answer questions about any possible exposure to the virus, and some even throw things at staff when they get angry.”

Kendall said some nurses couldn’t handle the stress and pressure during the past year and have taken stress leave, while others have opted to go into public health where many became involved with administering the vaccines and have less interactions with sick people.

As more people get vaccinated against COVID-19 and the community gets closer to herd immunity, the nurses are giving a sigh of relief, although they are wary of what the future will bring.

Kendall said she thinks it’s unlikely the virus will be completely eliminated, but it will be much more manageable in the future.

“We’re just keeping our fingers crossed that another pandemic doesn’t start anytime soon,” she said.

Ferris said the nurses and the other professions at the hospital appreciate the efforts made by the provincial Public Heath Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry to educate the public and contain the pandemic in B.C.

“Dr. Henry was suddenly thrown in a position that she didn’t expect to be in and she did well,” she said.

“What she said was heartfelt. We’re now seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. It will be just a little longer before we finally achieve herd immunity and, hopefully, return to normal.”

RELATED STORY: ABBOTSFORD NURSE AT ‘BREAKING POINT’, PLEADS WITH PUBLIC TO TAKE COVID-19 SERIOUSLY

But Ferris said she believes that some practices at the hospital developed during the pandemic won’t be going anywhere soon.

“We’ve learned some lessons about the need for personal protection equipment due to our heightened awareness of infection control,” she said.

“I think that, from now on, hospital staff will always wear a mask when interacting with patients.”

Kendall said the Cowichan community has done an amazing job so far during the pandemic, and offered thanks for all the support the hospital received during the past year.

She also questioned the wisdom of just honouring nurses during this week and acknowledging their heroic efforts during the health crisis.

“It should be shared with all health care workers and be called Health Care Week,” Kendall said.

“The physicians, housekeepers and everyone else should be celebrated too. We are all in this together.”

For more news from Vancouver Island and beyond delivered daily into your inbox, please click here.



robert.barron@cowichanvalleycitizen.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Healthcare

Just Posted

Two volunteers work to sieve a sample of sand and ocean water through a filter, capturing any potential microplastics. (Courtesy of Ocean Diagnostics)
Victoria startup making waves in microplastics research

New products from Ocean Diagnostics will make research faster, more affordable

Willows Beach in Oak Bay. (Black Press Media file photo)
Seven days of sun set to shine on Greater Victoria

Special weather statement warns of higher than usual temperatures

Chef Trevor Randle leads a June 21 online cooking featuring recipes – beef zesty lettuce wraps, blueberry strudel and blueberry spritzer. (Courtesy We Heart Local BC)
Free online cooking course explores B.C. blueberries and beef

Chef Trevor Randle calls them the province’s most flavourful foods

Google Maps shows significant traffic backups after a crash reported shortly before noon on Father’s Day, June 20. (Google Maps)
Father’s Day crash in Saanich closes lane of McKenzie Avenue

Police say there were injuries, traffic impacted

Victoria Regional Transit System routes 7 UVic/Downtown, 21 Interurban/Downtown and 53 Colwood/Langford will undergo changes as of June 28. (Black Press Media file photo)
Greater Victoria school routes scaled down for summer by BC Transit

Service changes take effect June 28, enhanced service returns this fall and winter

Jesse Roper tackles weeds in his garden to kick off the 2021 season of What’s In My Garden Man? (YouTube/Whats In My Garden)
VIDEO: Metchosin singer-songwriter Jesse Roper invites gardeners into his plot

What’s In My Garden, Man? kicks off with the poop on compost

Blair Lebsack, owner of RGE RD restaurant, poses for a portrait in the dining room, in Edmonton, Friday, June 18, 2021. Canadian restaurants are having to find ways to deal with the rising cost of food. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Canadian restaurateurs grapple with rising food costs, menu prices expected to rise

Restaurants are a low margin industry, so there’s not a lot of room to work in additional costs

RCMP crest. (Black Press Media files)
Fort St. John man arrested after allegedly inviting sexual touching from children

Two children reported the incident to a trusted adult right away

A Lotto 6/49 ticket purchased in Parksville for the June 19, 2021 draw is a $3M winner. (Submitted photo)
Winning Lotto 6/49 ticket worth $3M purchased on Vancouver Island

Lottery prize winners have 52 weeks to claim jackpot

Bruce Springsteen performs at the 13th annual Stand Up For Heroes benefit concert in support of the Bob Woodruff Foundation in New York on Nov. 4, 2019. (Greg Allen/Invision/AP)
Canadians who got AstraZeneca shot can now see ‘Springsteen on Broadway’

B.C. mayor David Screech who received his second AstraZeneca dose last week can now attend the show

Barbara Violo, pharmacist and owner of The Junction Chemist Pharmacy, draws up a dose behind vials of both Pfizer-BioNTech and Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines on the counter, in Toronto, Friday, June 18, 2021. An independent vaccine tracker website founded by a University of Saskatchewan student says just over 20 per cent of eligible Canadians — those 12 years old and above — are now fully vaccinated. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
At least 20% of eligible Canadians fully vaccinated, 75% with one dose: data

Earlier projections for reopening at this milestone didn’t include Delta variant

This undated file photo provided by Ernie Carswell & Partners shows the home featured in the opening and closing scenes of The Brady Bunch in Los Angeles. Do you know the occupation of Mike Brady, the father in this show about a blended family? (Anthony Barcelo/Ernie Carswell & Partners via AP, File)
QUIZ: A celebration of dad on Father’s Day

How much do you know about famous fathers?

Emily Steele holds up a collage of her son, 16-year-old Elijah-Iain Beauregard who was stabbed and killed in June 2019, outside of Kelowna Law Courts on June 18. (Aaron Hemens/Capital News)
Kelowna woman who fatally stabbed teen facing up to 1.5 years of jail time

Her jail sentence would be followed by an additional one to 1.5 years of supervision

Cpl. Scott MacLeod and Police Service Dog Jago. Jago was killed in the line of duty on Thursday, June 17. (RCMP)
Abbotsford police, RCMP grieve 4-year-old service dog killed in line of duty

Jago killed by armed suspect during ‘high-risk’ incident in Alberta

Most Read